Lutein, a carotenoid, is usually associated with its benefits for ocular support. This carotenoid is commonly found in both vegetables and fruits. Research supports the role Lutein plays in the retina and its ability to decrease the risk of age related eye diseases. Currently, Lutein is beginning to be recognized as support for the brain.
Lutein is taken up into brain tissue on a selective basis and is the main carotenoid in adult and infant brains. Increased levels of Lutein correlate with improve cognitive function in older individuals. Interestingly enough Lutein concentrations in the macula of the retina correspond with the levels of Lutein found in the brain tissue, and provides a non invasive means to measure Lutein in the brain. This reinforces research showing increased macular pigment density in adults being significantly associated with improvements in cognitive performance.
Lutein also plays a role on cognition in early life. Lutein is the preferred carotenoid taken up in cord blood and in breast milk. Young brains show the ratio of Lutein to total carotenoids to be twice those found in adults which accounts for over half the concentration of total carotenoids.
The increased proportion of Lutein found in young brains suggests Lutein is needed during neural development. Recent studies in children 8 – 10 years of age, shows macular pigment density was significantly related to academic performance and better memory.
Lutein’s role as an antioxidant and a natural anti-inflammatory may be why Lutein is so important. In a randomized double blind placebo controlled study in healthy newborns supplementing Lutein significantly increased serum antioxidant activity providing a benefit when in brain tissue.
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