Chemical found in leafy greens 'linked to brain health and intelligence'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

A pigment found in leafy greens has been linked to brain health and intelligence in a study involving older adults.

The University of Illinois research has shed light on the neuroprotective effects offered by lutein, one of several plant pigments that humans acquire primarily by eating leafy green vegetables, as well as other foods like broccoli or egg yolks.

“Consumption of a pigment found in leafy greens has been linked to the preservation of crystallised intelligence in older adults.“

In this study, 122 healthy participants aged 65 to 75 were asked to solve problems and answer questions to test their crystallised intelligence, or the ability to use the skills and knowledge they had acquired over their lifetimes.

Participants with higher blood serum levels of lutein tended to do perform better in these tests, it was shown. Although serum lutein levels only reflected recent dietary intake, they are also associated with brain concentrations of lutein, which reflect longer-term dietary trends.

People with higher serum lutein levels also tended to have thicker gray matter in the parahippocampal cortex, a brain region that is preserved in healthy ageing.

Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, said: "Our finding adds to the evidence suggesting that particular nutrients slow age-related declines in cognition by influencing specific features of brain ageing."

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