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Move over apples! Research shows an avocado a day significantly boosts lutein concentrations in your brain, with corresponding improvements in cognitive function. Lutein has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and avocados are an excellent source
Avocados are a treasure trove of nutrition, in part because they're a bioavailable source of lutein, a carotenoid that's excellent for your brain. Lutein crosses your blood-brain barrier and also accumulates in the macular region of your eye's retina. The macula lutea, which is Latin for "yellow spot" and also known as macular pigment (MP), is a yellow area near the center of your retina.
Macular pigment is largely comprised of lutein and another carotenoid, zeaxanthin, and plays an important role in filtering blue light, while also offering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, the density of macular pigment in your retina (macular pigment density, or MPD) is also linked to cognitive function, as the amount of lutein in your retina is significantly associated with the lutein concentrations in your brain. As such, MPD can be used as a biomarker for lutein in your brain, which in turn is associated with better brain function.
A Daily Avocado Increases Lutein, Boosts Your Brain
Considering that one avocado contains about 0.5 milligrams (mg) of lutein, researchers were interested to know if eating this healthy fruit could benefit cognition. For six months, 48 adults consumed either one avocado, one potato or one cup of chickpeas daily -- the latter two options serving as control options, since they contain no lutein.
At the end of the study, lutein levels in the avocado group increased by 25%, compared to 15% in the control group (which may have been due to unreported dietary changes that took place during the study). However, the avocado group also had an increase in MPD after six months, while the control group did not.
Along with improvements in memory, those eating an avocado a day had improved sustained attention, working memory and efficiency in approaching a problem, leading researchers to concluded, "Dietary recommendations including avocados may be an effective strategy for cognitive health."
The avocados proved to be an excellent way to boost lutein levels, even though they contain relatively little. The researchers speculated this may benefit brain health via:
Improving antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status
Modulating functional properties of synaptic membranes in the brain
Changes in the physiochemical and structural features of synaptic membranes in the brain
Avocado also has at least 28 known actions by which it exerts benefits on your body. In addition to helping your brain, avocado is a known ally for your heart. In fact, that one avocado a day may not only give you a cognitive boost but has been shown, in separate research, to improve cholesterol and lower your cardio-metabolic risk factors.
It's just one example of why eating whole superfoods like avocado makes sense; check out GreenMedinfo's research database for more of the latest avocado research.