Throughout life our brains continuously acquire new information and store it away for later use—things like how to tie our shoes or drive a car. Now, a new study from the University of Illinois pinpoints the role of nutrition in helping to protect brain health as we age, in particular something called crystallized intelligence.
Crystallized intelligence refers to our ability to use the knowledge our brains have gathered over time, and researchers believe lutein may play an important role in supporting that ability and slowing or preventing age-related decline in healthy brain function. Lutein is a carotenoid—a natural pigment in leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) known to have beneficial antioxidant properties.
And after analyzing the brain scans and blood lutein levels of more than 100 healthy seniors, study authors found that participants with more lutein scored higher on crystallized intelligence tests and had more gray matter in the area of the brain associated with using stored knowledge and skills.
“This offers the first clue as to which brain regions specifically play a role in the preservation of crystallized intelligence, and how factors such as diet may contribute to that relationship,” said lead author Marta Zamroziewicz in a recent news release.