Eat Your Kale and Spinach. Lutein May Keep You Sharp.

Kale contains lutein, a nutrient that may protect the brain against the cognitive effects of aging, according to a new University of Illinois study.


Kale is already a thing. It’s a highly regarded health food these days, billed as an edible warrior against cancer, depression, and a boon to mental clarity. It’s gotten so much positive press that it’s become a polarizing topic: People either love kale — like me — or hate it:

(KINGSPORT HUMMER)

Now researchers from the University of Illinois have released a study of the cognitive effects of lutein — a nutrient in kale and spinach, as well as in avocados and eggs, that the human body doesn’t produce — in 60 subjects aged 25 to 45. They found that those with higher levels of lutein in their systems exhibited neural responses more like those of younger adults than their peers. 

The study’s authors wanted to try and catch what’s going on before, or at least just as, age begins to take a toll mentally. According to post-doc Anne Walk, first author of the paper, “As people get older, they experience typical decline. However, research has shown that this process can start earlier than expected. You can even start to see some differences in the 30s.”

Lutein molecule (JYNTO)

Lutein is stored in the human body in brain tissue and also in the eyes, which allowed researchers to assess each subject’s lutein levels non-invasively by measuring their macular pigment optical density. They employed a customized heterochromatic flicker photometry (cHFP) technique and a macular densitometer. In cHFP, subjects adjust the radiance of one light against another until the one light no longer flickers.

Next, subjects performed a two-stimulus oddball task to test their attentiveness while their neural activity was measured using scalp electrodes. Subsequent tests are planned that’ll examine the relationship, if any, between lutein, learning, and memory. 

The results were intriguing. “The neuro-electrical signature of older participants with higher levels of lutein looked much more like their younger counterparts than their peers with less lutein,” Walk tells Illinois News Bureau. “Lutein appears to have some protective role, since the data suggest that those with more lutein were able to engage more cognitive resources to complete the task.”

Walk explains that, “We want to understand how diet impacts cognition throughout the lifespan. If lutein can protect against decline, we should encourage people to consume lutein-rich foods at a point in their lives when it has maximum benefit.”

(JOCELYNDALE)

Which is not to say that people should only eat kale because they have to.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less