Back in 2008, a study from the Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found an association between improved cognition and adequate intake of a combination of lutein (a carotenoid that makes up the filtering pigment in the eye’s macula) and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Now, researchers suspect that lutein in the macula is a marker for cognitive function in seniors. Blood and macular pigment density levels of carotenoids were measured in 108 seniors and compared to results from eight cognitive tests designed to measure memory and processing speed. Results showed that the level of lutein (and zeaxanthin, another carotenoid) in macular tissue of the eye was significantly linked to global cognition, verbal learning and fluency, recall, and processing speed and perceptual speed. As lutein and zeaxanthin levels increased in the macula, so did cognitive scores.
For reasons other than antioxidant activity, lutein appears to enhance cognitive function, state researchers at USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston.
In Perspective: A wealth of research shows that increasing intake of lutein and zeaxanthin lowers the risk for developing cataracts and macular degeneration, the two main causes of vision loss in seniors. This study suggests these carotenoids also lower the risk for cognitive decline as we age.
Johnson E, McDonald K, Caldarella S, et al: Cognitive findings of an exploratory trial of docosahexaenoic acid and lutein supplementation in older women. Nutritional Neuroscience 2008;11:75-83.
Vishwanathan R, Iannaccone A, Scott T, et al: Macular pigment optimal density is related to cognitive function in older people. Age and Ageing 2014;January 15th.
Johnson E, Vishwanathan R, Johnson M, et al: Relationship between serum and brain carotenoids, alpha tocopherol, and retinol concentrations and cognitive performance in the oldest old from the Georgia Centenarian Study. Journal of Aging Research 2013;2013:951786.