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Lutein and Memory Performance

7/30/2019 2:24:48 PM
Obesity has been associated with poorer cognitive function, including poorer hippocampal function. One potential mechanism related to both obesity and hippocampal function may be related to decreased intake and neural concentration of lutein. Lutein is a carotenoid that accumulates in neural tissue at concentrations up to 5 times more than other carotenoids. Lutein has been found to influence hippocampal-dependent memory performance, possibly via its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Lutein and other carotenoids studied for effects on memory

In a cross-sectional study of 94 overweight or obese adults (aged 25-45), researchers aimed to understand whether dietary, serum, or macular levels of lutein and other carotenoids were associated with relational memory function. 
 
Relational memory is a hippocampal-dependent process that allows us to put a face with a name or retell a story in any order we choose. One way to assess relational memory is with a spatial reconstruction task, which requires participants to return objects to the locations they had previously seen them.
 
In this study, participants completed a computerized spatial reconstruction task to evaluate relational memory. They also received assessments for dietary intake of lutein, intelligence quotient (IQ), serum carotenoids, and retinal carotenoids.

Study reveals mixed results on lutein's benefits

Results showed that serum beta-carotene and lutein as well as dietary beta-carotene and lutein + zeaxanthin correlated with memory performance. However, after adjusting for covariates, the only associations that remained significant were between serum lutein and 2 metrics of relational memory performance: serum lutein was positively correlated with accuracy in object binding and inversely related to misplacement error. 
 
Because of the cross-sectional design, this study cannot establish a causal relationship between lutein and memory function. Randomized controlled trials are needed to determine whether or not changes in lutein status induce changes in hippocampal-dependent relational memory performance.
 
Reference
Cannavale CN, Hassevoort KM, Edwards CG et al. Serum Lutein is related to Relational Memory Performance. Nutrients. 2019; 11.

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