Cognition

Two important nutrients for brain health and cognition are found in eggs: choline and lutein. Choline plays a role in early brain development during pregnancy and infancy, particularly in areas of the brain that are used for memory and learning. Lutein has long been associated with eye health but research has discovered lutein’s role in cognition as well. For example:

  • Researchers at the University of Illinois published two studies looking at the relationship between brain lutein, as measured using a non-invasive eye test called Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD), and cognition in children. They found that MPOD concentration was positively associated with academic performance.
  • The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates recommended the addition of choline to prenatal vitamins because of its essentiality in promoting cognitive development of the offspring.
  • There is evidence that infants exposed to higher levels of maternal choline (930 mg/day) during the third trimester have improved information processing speed during the first year of life, an indicator of cognition and intelligence.

Fuel Your Brain with Nutrient-Rich Eggs

By Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN

The Egg Nutrition Center partnered with Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN to write this blog post.

 

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to consider the importance of brain health. With increased concern about brain diseases, researchers in the growing field of neuronutrition are examining how foods affect the health of our brains and scientists working on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are evaluating how nutrition impacts neurocognitive health throughout the lifespan. Eggs are a key part of this research because they contain choline and lutein, two nutrients that are important for brain development, memory and learning.

Choline plays a critical role in brain development and health during fetal development and throughout the lifespan. In utero, choline helps the baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly. Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning that our bodies can’t produce it in sufficient amounts so we have to get it in our diets.

Research News: Choline, Lutein, and Cognition

Featured article in the Spring 2019 Issue of Nutrition Close-Up; written by Maggie Moon, MS, RD

Health is not just the absence of disease, but the presence of optimal wellness. Though nutritional guidance historically focused on preventing deficiency and toxicity from nutrients, today there is a growing interest in leveraging nutrients to improve the “healthspan,” or years of life in good health.

Time is of the essence to apply this to neuronutrition. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s dementia is expected to more than double by 2050 from today’s 5.7 million to nearly 14 million.1 Worldwide, today’s 50 million people with dementia will more than triple by 2050, according to the World Health Organization.2
Lutein and choline are among the most underconsumed and underappreciated nutrients emerging into the spotlight for brain health and cognition. Recent research highlights their potential
for preventing and improving cognitive decline.

Healthy dietary patterns and brain health in children: the emerging role of lutein

Higher intake of carotenoid-rich vegetables and fruits has been consistently identified as a characteristic of healthy eating patterns.  Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids (lipid-soluble pigments) found abundantly in various vegetables such as spinach, kale, squash, peas, and are also present in egg yolks.  These yellow carotenoids are selectively taken up by macular tissue of the retina and new research links these pigments to eye health as well as cognition1.

Choline: A Critical Need to Increase Awareness and Consumption

“Choline has been shown to be ranked last among common nutrients as a nutrient to recommend for a healthy diet, and only about 10% of health professionals indicate moderate familiarity with choline.”1  With growing research indicating that this under-consumed nutrient is critical for neurocognitive development and health throughout the lifespan, health professionals should be aware of foods that provide choline and ways to incorporate them into the diet.

Lutein’s Role in Optimal Eye and Brain Health

Image: Actual lutein scores from attendees at the 2018 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo®.

Lutein is an important carotenoid that has been shown to act as internal sunglasses, protecting our eyes from harmful blue light. It also prevents against macular degeneration and other age-related eye diseases. Emerging research shows lutein’s benefits may extend beyond eye health, impacting cognitive function and brain health across the lifespan.