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Increased intakes of carotenoids may preserve brain functions

October 21, 2013

According to a new study from France a diet rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin during midlife may contribute to the maintenance of cognitive function in one’s old age.

The observational study investigated a potential link between carotenoid intakes, blood concentrations and cognitive functions of 2,983 middle-aged participants during 13 years (1). The study results showed that participants with an increased consumption of orange and green-colored fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils and soup, showed higher plasma carotenoid levels and better results in cognitive performance tests (e.g., working memory, attention, and word generation), compared to participants with lower carotenoid intakes.

The researchers commented that the positive association between a carotenoid-rich dietary pattern and sub- sequent cognitive performance supports previous research reporting better cognitive status, lower cognitive decline or lower probability or risk of dementia among participants with a high beta-carotene intake (2). In a randomized controlled trial with older women, increased intakes of lutein (12mg/day), known to accumulate in the brain, alone or in combination with docosahexaenoic acid (800 mg/day) significantly improved cogni- tive function (3). Carotenoids are well known for their role as antioxidants, potentially helping to protect the brain against oxidation and inflammation occurring during the aging process (4).

References

  1. Kesse-Guyot E. et al. Carotenoid-rich dietary patterns during midlife and subsequent cognitive function. Br J Nutr. Published online September 2013.
  2. Von Arnim C. A. F. et al Dietary antioxidants and dementia in a population-based case-control study among older people in South Germany. J Alz Dis. 2012; 31:717–724.
  3. Johnson E. J. A possible role for lutein and zeaxanthin in cognitive function in the elderly. AJCN. 2012; 96(5):1161–1165.
  4. Gemma C. et al. Oxidative stress and the aging brain: from theory to prevention. In Brain Aging: Models, Methods, and Mechanisms. D. R. Riddle, editor). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 2007.