You already know that kids (and grown-ups) need their five-a-day, but according to two new studies, there’s a certain nutrient that could give your child the academic edge. Namely lutein, a pigment that’s found in leafy greens, egg yolks and brightly colored fruit and veggies (like papaya and red peppers).
Researchers from the University of Illinois recorded lutein levels of eight-, nine- and ten-year-olds while they completed a challenging cognitive task. What they found was that task-driven spikes in brain activity (associated with cognitive engagement) tended to be lower in those with higher levels of lutein and that these children performed better on the task itself.
The same researchers then conducted a second study, published in the journal of Nutritional Neuroscience, and found that children with higher lutein levels did better on standardized academic tests, even when taking other factors (such as IQ and physical fitness) into account.
“This research is the first to report that the level of lutein in children relates to how efficiently and accurately their brain works, marking a significant step forward in our understanding of the impact of lutein on children's cognition,” said Matt Kuchan, discovery scientist for Abbott, a global healthcare company that partnered with the University of Illinois for the study.
Study authors acknowledged that more research is needed, so maybe don’t go overhauling your kid’s diet just yet. But hey, a few extra carrot sticks certainly can’t hurt.