Do Lutein Supplements Help with Brain Function?

Do Lutein Supplements Help with Brain Function?

“Do Lutein Supplements
Help with Brain Function?” Dark green leafy vegetables are packed
with a brain antioxidant called lutein. And so increasing our greens intake could
be an important public health strategy for reducing the risk of visual
or cognitive impairment. Lutein is the dominant
dietary pigment in the retina of the eye
as well as the brain. And so not surprising
that macular pigment— the concentration of lutein in the
center of your eye called the macula— was found to be significantly
correlated with levels in the brain, which may explain the link between
how much of these greens nutrients you can see in the back of
the eye and cognitive function. The neuroprotection is assumed
to be because lutein is such a powerful antioxidant, but it
also has anti-inflammatory properties. This relationship between lutein, and another greens
nutrient called zeaxanthin, and visual and cognitive health
throughout the lifespan is compelling. But that was based on observational
studies, where you observe that higher lutein levels and brain
function seem to go together, but you don’t know if it’s cause
and effect until you put it to the test. Could lutein and zeaxanthin
be supplemented as part of a lifestyle intervention
to both improve brain function and reduce the probability
of slipping into dementia? The reason everyone is so
excited about the possibility is because of the hopeful data
from eye health studies that have convinced many
ophthalmologists to start recommending people start increasing their lutein
and zeaxanthin intake to prevent and treat macular degeneration, a
leading cause of age-related vision loss. You don’t have to take pills, though. Adding as little as 60 grams
of spinach a day for a month— that’s like one-fifth of a 10-ounce
package of frozen spinach— can significantly boost macular
pigment in most people. And it not just good for
treating diseased eyes. A randomized, placebo-controlled study
found that these greens goodies can improve visual processing
speed in young healthy people. That’s like when you’re trying to
hit a fastball and your body has to start reacting before you
even consciously register it— with real-world benefits
outside the major leagues, improving, for example,
visual driving performance. OK, but what about cognition? A randomized, double-blind,
placebo-controlled trial of adults, average age 73, given the equivalent
of about a half cup a day’s worth of cooked kale, or a full
cup of cooked spinach, and got significant improvements
in cognitive function compared to those randomized
to the placebo. It may even work in young
adults too, average age 21. Daily supplementation with that same
amount of lutein and zeaxanthin not only increased their macular pigment,
but resulted in significant improvements in brain function—spatial memory,
reasoning ability, and complex attention. Have they ever tried putting
whole foods to the test? Hard to get Americans
to eat greens every day, but not so hard to get them
to eat guacamole. This study tested the effects of the
intake of avocado on cognition, a six-month, randomized,
controlled trial. What was the control? One avocado a day, or a potato
or a cup of chickpeas, and those in the avocado group had a significant improvement
in cognitive function. But to the Avocado Board’s chagrin,
so did the tater and chickpea group. That’s the problem with
having healthy placebos. Maybe they should have used
iceberg lettuce or something. What about the impact on cognition
of those who really need it, Alzheimer’s disease patients?
Their vision got better, that’s good, but no significant changes
in cognitive function. Now it’s possible that eating whole
foods, like dark green leafies, might have worked better than
just the pigments in pill form. Yes, oxidation and inflammation
appear to be key to both Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration, but neither
disease seems particularly amenable to late-stage treatments.
That’s why prevention is the key. Reducing oxidation and
inflammation in the earliest stages may be our most promising approach.




    Thank you for another amazing year. Sign up for our newsletter to get the top ten videos of 2018, coming out on Thursday: Want a convenient way to pack in the greens? Check out the vegetable-based smoothie recipe I made in one of my rare "Dr. Greger in the Kitchen" videos ( Bottoms up!

  • AlboPepper - Drought Proof Urban Gardening

    Once again science has shown the superiority of greens! Whether it's kale or spinach, there's no need for supplements. Your eyes AND brain will thank-you! No need for eggs… whole food plant-based ForTheWin!!! Thanks for highlighting this independent research Dr Greger! 😀

  • Mark Sawalha

    Thanks for great research again! How about video from "NATTO" Japanese fermented soy food and it's health effects?

  • Doug bananaboy

    Birds eat greens then humans eat birds and their eggs to get optimal amounts of this nutrient.

  • Marina Capri

    Eat more leafy green vegetables. Got it, thanks


    Is it better to cook baby spinach or eat it raw? I eat it raw on my superfood breaks every day 🤔🤷‍♀️

  • Sara Rainey

    My eye doctor says I might be developing glaucoma in my right eye 😫 I know that glaucoma affects peripheral vision, and macular degeneration affects central vision. Is there a nutrient that can help with glaucoma? I'll ask this at your next live q&a.

  • Emily BH

    Of course they didn't test FRUIT which as frugivores our G.I. tracts are most designed to digest and raw FRUIT is the OPTIMAL healing diet for humans and would have worked like a charm. Dr.Robert Morse turns a lot of people around with neurological problems putting them on a diet of strictly RAW FRUIT – especially berries and grapes…. and by giving them the right whole herbs.. Cooked or even raw vegetables are far less effective at cleaning out plaque and eliminating inflammation and regenerating cells no matter how hard the medical establishment resists this truth and wants us to ignore fruit.

  • haku

    supplements almost never seem to be necessary. according to andreas moritz (a holistic doctor) not even vitamin b12 supplementation is useful: b12 deficiency, he argues, is more due to a diminished ability to absorb it rather than a lack of b12 in the food

  • beo wulf


  • frank brown

    failed to see the answer to the title Q. Can we take a lutein-zeaxanthin pill/day instead of 10 lbs of greens and get the effect?

  • Abc 123

    Question of the millennium: can a healthy diet prevent/ stop/ reverse, male pattern baldness?

  • Flying Angel

    When vitamin D and vitamin B12 are supplemented long term, does it have a bad impact in health and inner organs?

    The B12 and Vitamin D that I use is a vegan brand here in Germany called Plantrition. Both are drops and the ingredients are:

    B12 ingredients:
    – clear water
    – Methylcobalamin
    – ascorbic acid (vegan)

    Vitamin D ingredients:
    – MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) Oil, Cholecalciferol (from Lichen

    The brand insures the consumer (on their internet site and amazon) that the ingredients are vegan, doesn’t contain gmo, is gluten free, no artificial colors, no gelatine, no preservatives, no stabilizers, no silicone dioxide, no titanium dioxide, no lactose, no sugar, no sweetner, no magnesium salts.

    Are those supplements that I am using save? And are there downsides by using it long term?

  • Gianni

    Egg yolk contains even more lutein though…

  • W

    For the love of GOD stop using "cup" as a unit of measure!!!

  • Jürgen Noll

    A double-blind study on the effects on vision ….. 🤔🤣😂😉😇

  • mike clarke

    My update on my eye photo exam from last week. No eye problems, no macular, cholesterol,  tumors,  high blood pressure , glaucoma . Everything good. Reminder, always wear your sunglasses  to prevent uv damage.

  • HardHittingHealthTruth J

    He is wrong and tries to get away without telling people not to add lutein and zeaxanthin to there plant based diet..Fact is optimal dose is lutein 25 mg and zeaxanthin 5mg…You need to supplement for optimal health

  • Dj Doolittle

    Bacon has increased my brain function. And then you die 👍

  • Andrew G

    HAPPY NEW YEAR (2019) D0C!

  • Carl Rathbone

    Happy new year 🥳

  • Chillaxative13

    In short, yes they do

  • LEB52

    What is Sulforaphane and is it the best unknown nutrient?

  • LLicit

    People say that nutrition research is confusing but overall there seems to be some common themes emerging – minimal processing, variety, mainly (all) plants etc – so in one sense it seems to be getting simpler. And this is increased by the fact that what is beneficial for one condition is frequently beneficial for others as well.

  • Cathy Lynn Pietranton

    Love those greens

  • SKPjoe Coursegold

    another win for kale.

  • small footprint

    Thanks, Dr. Greger. Nice to have all this good research. So far, so good.

  • Bonnie C


  • Conny Boxer

    ☘☘☘Happy New Year 2019 , dear Dr.Greger ! 💖Thank you for your enormous work for us worldwide

  • Conny Boxer

    🌱💖🌱 Happy New Year to all plant strong eaters and the plant eaters-to-be !!

  • AdamSetEnoch

  • Idylchatter

    Consider the fact that not only will CBD positively affect mood, anxiety, cognition, bone density, inflammation, melanin production, autoimmunity and so on, it also reduces the pressure in the microvasculature of the retina. Not a bad supplement that is being ignored by the mainstream and YT.  Alzheimer’s b4 and after CBD  Before and after mental illness Alzheimer’s  CBD oil, Dad’s first dose  CBD provides help for Alzheimer’s sufferers  Treating dementia and Alzheimer’s – Interview on the effects of CBD on Alzheimer’s and mental illness

  • White Ninja

    Answer: —-> No

  • Enrique Hidalgo

    Thank you Dr. Greger. You are a hero!

  • Richard Slater

    Hi Dr Gregor & the NutritionFacts team, I’ve recently
    been diagnosed with macular dystrophy and I’ve been doing a lot of research on
    how diet may stop the progression. I already follow a WHPB diet & Dr
    Gregor’s daily dozen, however I’ve found a lot of information regarding the
    consumption of fish & AMD. (; know there are many issues with
    fish consumption such as mercury, PCB’s, animal protein & cholesterol etc,
    but it seems like there’s some strong evidence it might help with my macular
    health. Do I have to risk other chronic diseases to try and reduce the chance
    of my disease progressing? Or do we know why fish seem to be protective, and is
    there a way to cut out the middle fish and get these nutrients from a healthier
    source? Any help would be much appreciated.

  • A G

    Prevention is always the key. Curing any disease once you have it is an uphill battle at best.

  • Maureen K

    Greens are the best!

  • Tehstool

    Wait so should I be taking lutein and zeaxanthan supplements?

  • Klairee Berry

    good work mister!

  • John Corkery

    Dr. Greger, in an earlier video on macular degeneration you recommended goji berries as sources of lutein & zeaxanthin. Does this still hold or has science moved on since then?

  • Peko Ku

    I love Dr. Greger but he didn’t even answer his own question in title…. why leave the audience high and dry? Please answer the question 🙏🙏🙏

  • Deals togo

    L+Z+copper+zinc then.

  • MMM mm

    Since lutein good for the brain I thought it might be good for autism.. but when I google about it.. I see a lot of people pushing a lutein free diet to help ASD.  Any comment?  Should we not give lutein to a child with ASD?

  • mmm

    I would like to see opinions/research on whether powdered greens are a decent alternative to no greens at all. I presume fresh greens are better-but do powders give you the nutrition? Would you “count” powder for Daily Dozen? Price, availability, and taste for leafy greens are an obstacle for me (but most other fruits/veggies are available frozen at least).

  • Angela Salkeld

    Thank you for the info,🙂

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