Lutein: For the Brain? Adults and Children May Benefit

Lutein and Brain for Adults and KidsLutein, 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.



Lutein Levels Linked To A More Agile And “Youthful” Brain

Lutein and CognitionA new study finds a high intake of Lutein may slow down cognitive decline.

60 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 45 participated in this study.  Carotenoid levels were assessed by measuring MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density), which is considered a trusted indicator of Lutein levels in the brain. Event related brain activity was used as a gauge of cognitive function and was recorded as the participants performed cognitive control testing.  Study results showed MPOD was related to both specific electrical brain activity and age during the decision making process, known as the P3 wave.  Younger adults showed a larger abundance of P3 than the older participants however, the older participants with higher MPOD levels displayed P3 measures equal to the younger participants.  Researchers concluded that Lutein appears to have a protective role in the brain since the study data indicated that participants with more Lutein were able to utilize more cognitive resources to finish their tasks.

Besides being beneficial to brain health, Lutein and Zeaxanthin have been shown to provide support for vision and vision diseases since Lutein appears to accumulate in both the brain and in the eyes.  The ability of Lutein in brain processing, memory, speed and processing is intriguing since Lutein cannot be manufactured on its own in the body.

Further study is warranted.


Lutein and Zeaxanthin Levels Linked to Better Cognitive Function

Lutein and Cognitive FunctionA new study has found that higher blood levels of Lutein and Zeaxanthin may be associated with improved memory, cognition and executive function.  Data from this study found higher Zeaxanthin levels were associated with increased processing speeds and higher levels of both Zeaxanthin and Lutein were associated with enriched scores for many cognitive measures.

Data from over 4,000 adults aged 50 and older was analyzed.  Researchers inferred that a good biological basis exists for hypothesizing that Lutein and Zeaxanthin may be neuroprotective due to their anti inflammatory cell signaling properties and due to their antioxidant properties.

A link between eye health and Lutein was established in 1994 when researchers found a link between the consumption of dark leafy vegetables (carotenoid rich foods) and a reduction in the incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Additional studies now support the effects Lutein has on brain health.  Studies show that the carotenoids found in pediatric brain tissue is 60% Lutein yet only about 12% of the carotenoids found in the average diet contains Lutein.  Researchers have concluded that the brain has a preference for Lutein.

More studies are definitely needed.


Lycopene, Lutein Supplements Show Skin Protection From Within Against UV Radiation

UV ProtectionA new study has found supplementing lutein or lycopene, a rich tomato nutrient, may protect against the damage of UV skin exposure.  The findings of the study show oral supplementation with either of these carotenoids may change the expression of genes that are indicators of photo-aging, pho-dermatoses and oxidative stress.

65 participants between the ages of 18 and 60 volunteered for this double blinded, randomized cross-over study.  The participants were randomly assigned to supplement 20 mg of lutein, 20 mg of a tomato nutrient complex or a placebo.  The study lasted 24 weeks with a 2 week wash out period separating the placebo and an active intervention period.  The skin was irradiated at the beginning and at the end of each phase of the study.  The Lutein only group showed that gene expression was completely inhibited if the Lutein was taken during the first 12 weeks (ie prior to the placebo) and a significantly smaller effect was seen if the Lutein was taken during the second 12 week phase (ie after the placebo).  The tomato nutrient complex group saw the up regulation of HO-1, ICAM-1 and MMP1 mRNA by both UVA1 and UVA/B were totally inhibited.

Although the exact way that lutein and lycopene inhibit UVA1 radiation induced gene expression is not actually known, researchers believe it involves the anti-oxidative role that these carotenoids play.


Study Shows 3 Carotenoid Formula Boosts Visual Performance for Non-Impaired Subjects

carotenoidsA new long term trial has concluded that supplementation with lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin, 3 of the carotenoids, may improve visual performance in subjects who had normal vision at the start of the study.  This trial was called the Central Retinal Enrichment Supplementation Trials (CREST).

105 individuals with an average age of 48 equally split between men and women were divided into a supplementation and placebo groups.  All participants had normal vision at the onset of the study.  However, participants did have a lower than normal amount of macular pigment (MP) at the beginning of the study.  The supplement group received a capsule containing 10 mg of lutein, 10 mg of meso-zeaxanthin and 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily with food.  The study lasted a year.

Changes in overall MP were measured and ranked against changes in contrast specificity which is a better measure of visual performance than visual acuity which is the usual standard used.  In this CREST trial blood serum levels of all 3 of the carotenoids rose over time and peaked around the 6 month benchmark and then declined slightly after that time.  The MP however showed a continual steady rise.

Researchers concluded that the results of this study show that these carotenoids could improve the visual quality of life for the average person.