Lutein... We hear about it all the time these days. I've even seen it listed as the active ingredient in a Vitamin Water. While it is most closely associated with eye health, scientists continue to find links between lutein and cognitive function. In fact, they've actually discovered that Lutein doesn't only exist in the eyes' retina. It exists in the brain too! This shouldn't come as a surprise; the eyes and brain are so tightly connected.
But what is Lutein? In short, Lutein is an antioxidant carotenoid (a fancy word for a plant-based, pigmented nutrient) that is responsible for the yellow colors of fruits and vegetables, and is present in the highest quantities in dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli. We are all born with a certain amount of lutein in our eyes and brain, but here's the kicker: Our bodies don't reproduce it and it is up to us to acquire more of it through our diets. This is particularly difficult in 2019; our food sources are over farmed, loaded with pesticides (i.e., the Dirty Dozen), and declining every year in nutritional value. According to USDA data, 1 Bowl of Spinach in 1953 has the same nutritional value as over 43 Bowls of Spinach today. That's an 84% loss of nutrition! What this means is that even with a healthy diet we don't receive Lutein in the quantities our eyes and brains need. Because of this nutritional supplementation is more important than ever.
But why is Lutein so important? Here's why... Lutein is an extreme antioxidant. It fights off dangerous free radicals and reduces oxidative stress on the brain. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It works overtime with the carotenoids Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin to reduce inflammation on the brain. All of this protects the brain and supports cognitive function, memory and mood.