Pigment in veggies linked to brain health

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There's good news for fans of spinach omelets: Foods such as leafy greens and eggs may help stave off age-related cognitive declines, thanks to a pigment known as lutein. 

That's according to research published online in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience in December. Marta Zamroziewicz, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, teamed up with psychology professor Aron Barbey, Ph.D., to examine the relationship between lutein and the aging brain.

Zamroziewicz tested nearly 80 adults ranging in age from 65 to 75 to determine how lutein, which is found in leafy vegetables, as well as egg yolks, impacted their brain health. Specifically, the research team analyzed the seniors' “crystallized intelligence,” or the ability to use knowledge learned throughout one's lifetime.

The study showed that people with higher levels of lutein in their blood did better on crystallized intelligence tests. Blood levels of lutein can reflect levels of the pigment in the brain built up through long diet habits, the authors said.

“Our finding adds to the evidence suggesting that particular nutrients slow age-related declines in cognition by influencing specific features of brain aging,” Barbey said.