Lutein is a vitamin closely related to beta-carotene and vitamin A. In plants, Lutein controls light during the photosynthesis process. It’s found in high concentrations in leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard, and dandelion greens. (Interestingly, nasturtium flowers have a bonkers high level of lutein, too, and they’re also very pretty in salads.)
It’s sometimes sold as a supplement in the vitamin aisle, where it’s mostly marketed as a vision booster, since it’s known to help prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, and other eye-related problems. But a recent research proejct from researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that lutein might serve a different purpose, too.
After noticing that lutein accumulates in very large amounts in the brains of infants, the study’s researchers wondered if there was any cognitive value to the vitamin. They looked at the lutein levels of children between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, and measured their brain activity and performance on a “challenging cognitive task” to compare with those levels.
Anyway, the researchers controlled for a few variables known to affect scores on these cognition tests (IQ, gender, physical fitness) and found that the kids with higher levels of lutein performed significantly better.
But this does not mean we should feed our children kilos of kale; focus on serving a balanced diet with a good selection of vegetables in all colours.
Thanks to Modern Farmer for this blog.