Inspired living

Vegetables help ageing brains

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Everyone is encouraged a rainbow coloured diet, largely because the pigments that give fruit and vegetables colour are also very good for you. One group of those pigments are the carotenoids and included among the carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin. These two are known to be very important for eye health but they have effects beyond your eyes alone and a new study has shown that those effects can extend to how your brain functions as you age.

Lutein and zeaxanthin, like other carotenoids, can be found in fruit and vegetables including carrots, kale, pumpkins, spinach, capsicum, tomatoes, and oranges. It has been suggested in previous research that these two can improve mental function as you age but the researchers in this study wanted to see how they might be achieving this effect.

To study this they asked adults aged between 65 and 86 to learn and remember pairs of unrelated words and took MRI scans at the same time to measure brain activity.

The results showed that people with higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood stream had lower levels of oxygen and corresponding activity in several parts of the brain while performing memory tasks. This means that the brain was not having to work as hard. As you age the brain is willing to work harder to maintain the same level of performance and this indicates that lutein and zeaxanthin is enhancing brain performance so it does not have to work as hard to maintain its output.

Eat your fruit and vegetables because they are the colour of ageing well.

Source: Journal of the International Neurological Society


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.