MIND
June 28, 2017

The Nutrient Kids' Brains Need

Two studies find that kids with higher levels of this antioxidant do better academically.

If you are a parent, you try to do all the right things to make sure your child is successful in school: make sure they eat breakfast; make sure their homework is done; establish a regular bedtime; and, of course, feed them well. Two new studies suggest that a diet with plenty of lutein improves kids' school performance.

Lutein is the yellow pigment responsible for the coloring of many fruits and vegetables. It's an antioxidant, best known for protecting against the incurable eye disease, macular degeneration.

Children with higher levels of lutein performed better on standardized tests than students with lower levels.

The studies found that children who have high levels of lutein in their eyes perform better academically. In a world where children rarely eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, it’s very likely that they may not be getting enough lutein.

Both lutein and zeaxanthin, a close relative to lutein, appear to have a key role in overall brain health. They are found in large quantities in the brains of infants, an indication of their importance to brain development. Lutein is known to build up in the brain more so than all other plant pigments.

A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that children who were engaged in a difficult cognitive task performed better and needed less instruction to draw upon their basic skills to perform the task correctly when they had higher levels of lutein in their eyes.

A second study, published in Nutritional Neuroscience, reported that children with higher levels of lutein performed better on standardized tests than students with lower levels. Even when taking into consideration other factors known to affect academic performance, the findings still held true.

“All these factors — the physical measures of fitness, IQ, socioeconomic status, body mass index and the amount of lutein in the children's eyes — together explain about half of the variability achievement among participants. If you take lutein out of the equation, your ability to predict a child's performance becomes less accurate,” Naiman Khan, a University of Illinois professor involved in both studies, said in a statement.

The results suggest that lutein is a factor in the differences in academic performance seen in these studies, but further studies are needed to prove that lutein actually helps further childhood intellect.

You can make sure that your children are eating plenty of lutein-rich foods. Pump up their diets with green and yellow fruits and vegetables such as spinach, squash, kiwi, grapes, oranges, broccoli, green peas and yellow peppers. Egg yolks are also a good source.
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