Lutein, a pigment in green leafy vegetables could have a key role in protecting "crystallized intelligence" in older adults, reports a recent study.

Lutein And Crystallized Intelligence

Crystallized intelligence is the ability of a person to use the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the lifetime. Prime dietary sources of lutein are foods such as egg yolks, broccoli and green leafy vegetables. Lutein is observed to play neuroprotective roles by adhering to the cell membrane of the brain cells.

Marta Zamroziewicz, the lead author of the study from the University of Illinois, said that earlier studies have established that the "lutein status" of a person influences his cognitive performance over time. The researcher also noted that the pigment accumulates in the gray matter of a person's brain across a lifetime and affects the individual's cognitive performance, positively indicating healthy aging of the brain.

Study On Crystallized Intelligence

For the purpose of the study, the researchers involved 122 cognitively intact healthy subjects aged between 65 and 75 years. The crystallized intelligence of participants was analyzed with the help of Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. The participants were subjected to Volumetric Brain MRI to measure the volume of gray matter in the temporal cortex.

The investigators also analyzed the lutein concentration in the blood serum of the subjects. It was observed that participants with high levels of lutein in blood serum performed well in crystallized intelligence tests. In addition, subjects that had high levels of lutein in serum had high gray matter volume in the parahippocampal cortex.

Parahippocampal Cortex And Lutein

Aron Barbey, the professor of psychology from Illinois, noted from the current research that the volume of gray matter in the parahippocampal cortex located on the right side of the brain indicates the link between crystallized intelligence and lutein.

Barbey added that the study is first of its kind to find the region of the brain involved in the preservation of crystallized intelligence and the perceived role of lutein in the diet.

"Our findings do not demonstrate causality," said Zamroziewicz, in a press release. "We did find that lutein is linked to crystallized intelligence through the parahippocampal cortex."

Barbey explained further that as of now, it is only clear that lutein affects the structure of a person's brain. Lutein could be involved in cell-to-cell signaling or anti-inflammatory functions, which isn't established yet.

However, the study findings add to the growing body of evidence that certain dietary nutrients slow down cognitive decline in aging brain, added Barbey.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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