March 5, 2021

Uncovering the Cognitive Benefits of Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Choline

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

Uncovering the Cognitive Benefits of Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Choline

In past blog posts, I’ve highlighted the importance of nutrients such as choline, lutein and zeaxanthin. In a new study released in the January issue of the journal Nutritional Neuroscience , researched looked at the effect that a combination of these nutrients had on brain health, and the results are fascinating. But before we get into that, here’s a little primer on the nutrients in this discussion.

Choline : This nutrient is found in many foods including eggs, poultry, soybeans, fish and dairy. Eggs, particular the yolks,  are one of the best food sources of choline which plays a vital role in the brain and nervous system – it helps regulate muscle control and even the way we think and feel. It plays a role in memory, mood and in early brain development.

Adults need at least 425 mg (female) to 550 mg (male) of choline daily. A serving of two eggs provides 300 mg choline, so it’s clear that eggs are a great source! Many North Americans fall short of choline, and this is especially true for pregnant women . It’s important for pregnant women to get enough choline since it plays a role in the baby’s brain development.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin : These carotenoid antioxidants are partners and are found together in foods. Both are found in leafy green vegetables and egg yolks. Interestingly, it is easier for you’re your body to absorb carotenoids from egg yolks vs. vegetable sources. That’s because egg yolks also contain fat, which helps with the absorption of these carotenoids.

Lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the macula lutea of the eye, and play the role of protecting the retina from oxidative damage (hence the term “antioxidant). Lutein is also known to be anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and may be able to help improve skin elasticity – that’s why it’s often an ingredient in skin creams.

Getting enough lutein and zeaxanthin has been linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older adults. In addition to eye health, previous studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with cognition and memory.

What did this new study show?

In the research study “ Dietary lutein plus zeaxanthin and choline intake is interactively associated with cognitive flexibility in middle-adulthood adults with overweight and obesity issues”, scientists wanted to take a closer look at brain health and cognitive benefits of lutein, zeaxanthin and choline.

The research included 80 adults, and collected data about their intake of choline, lutein and zeaxanthin. The results? Researchers found that participants with a higher intake of lutein, zeaxanthin and choline had a faster reaction time and faster performance on a cognitive flexibility task.

The researchers note that on their own, each nutrient does not have the same favourable outcome on performance, but the best results are seen when the nutrients are combined. The paper says “further, faster processing speed, as evidenced by faster reaction time, was only observed with the interaction of the two components - lutein and choline.”

Why the synergy? Choline helps build acetylcholine (or ACh), a vitally important chemical in human nerves that helps transmit information – like getting our muscles to move. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that degrades ACh – basically, it’s bad news. But, as an antioxidant, lutein can protect ACh by decreasing the activity of acetylcholinesterase. With the synergy, there’s more ACh, and it’s not destroyed as easily.

There still needs to be future research to see how these nutrients work together synergistically, and to see if these results hold true with larger study population and at different weight ranges.

But what I see is the HUGE benefit that comes from eggs since they naturally contain choline and lutein. And yep, eat those yolks, folks! It’s where the lutein is found. Try Burnbrae Farms Omega Plus eggs because they have the highest amount of lutein. To get even more choline, lutein and zeaxanthin, pair eggs with leafy greens in recipes like these:

Margaret Hudson

President & CEO, Burnbrae Farms