When it comes to maintaining a well-balanced diet, we all like to eat foods that benefit us from head to toe. There are certain organs that we rely on to get by. Some of them are not that high up on the list, while some of them are extremely vital. Two organs that come under the latter category include your eyes and brain.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Today, we are here to talk about zeaxanthin (Z) and lutein (L): two cartenoids that improve brain efficiency. They improve visual-spatial perception, processing, decision-making, and motor coordination… the complete brain package. So what role do they play in giving you these benefits?
Let’s find out:
Zeaxanthin and Lutein
Zeaxanthin is a cartenoid alcohol, which is synthesized in microorganisms and plants. It is what gives paprika its dark-red pigment, wolfberries, saffron, corn, as well as many other microbes and plants their characteristic colors. It is found in abundance in leafy greens and is quite beneficial for the eyes.
Lutein is also a naturally occurring cartenoid that is synthesized by plants. It is found in abundance in leafy greens like kale, spinach, and yellow carrots. This carotenoid is also beneficial for the eyes. It is absorbed in the retina from blood and prevents age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
There have been several studies conducted on how both these carotenoids improve eyesight. The question is — how are they related to cognitive function?
Effects of Zeaxanthin (Z) and Lutein (L) in Adults
According to a study published in the journal of Nutrients, high levels of zeaxanthin (Z) and lutein (L) can improve cognitive function. A placebo-controlled trial was designed to find out the effects of the cartenoids. 51 healthy adults were selected for the study and they were given Z and L supplements for a year. Their cognitive function and macular pigment optical density (MOPD) was measured every four months.
The results showed that the group that received the supplements had high levels of MOPD, which showed improvements in spatial memory, complex attention, and reasoning ability. It was concluded that L and Z supplements not only improve MOPD, but they also enhance the cognitive function.
Effects of Zeaxanthin (Z) and Lutein (L) in Older Adults
Another study published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society looked at the effects of L and Z on cognitive function in older adults. 40 adults from the ages 65 to 86 years old were selected and their brain activity was recorded through MRI scans. They were asked to complete a task such as recalling word pairings. The MRI scans revealed that adults who had high levels of L and Z did not require much brain activity to finish the task.
Many people are a bit skeptical about supplements. If you want to take the natural root, the best way to include L and Z in your diet is to go green. Following are a few items you should include in your diet:
- Leafy Greens: Turnip, Swiss chard, collard greens, romaine lettuce, etc.
- Carrots and tomatoes
- Corn and celery
- Oranges, grapefruit and melons
So there you have it… the macular and cognitive benefits of zeaxanthin (Z) and lutein (L). According to several studies, a lutein supplementation of 10 mg/day and zeaxanthin supplementation of 2 mg/day can improve neural efficiency in a couple of weeks. It’s time to change your diet and amp up the snacks and meals by incorporating healthy doses of L and Z in them.