Life Extension Magazine®

Brain function supported by lutein and zeaxanthin

In The News: July 2017

Calcium safe for heart; vitamin D3 improves autism; cells programmed to “reverse age;” lutein and zeaxanthin improve brain efficiency.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

Eye Nutrients Linked to Efficient Brains

An article in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society reports an association between higher levels of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin and better brain efficiency.*

The finding was obtained from a University of Georgia study that involved 43 men and women between the ages of 65 and 86. Lutein and zeaxanthin levels were determined from measurement of macular pigment optical density and blood sample analysis. Participants were asked to recall learned pairs of unrelated words while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate brain activity.

The researchers found an association between higher lutein and zeaxanthin levels and lower blood oxygen level-dependent signaling in a number of areas of the brain, which indicates that less brain activity was required for the memory task.

“The observed results suggest that L [lutein] and Z [zeaxanthin] promote cognitive functioning in old age by enhancing neural efficiency,” the authors conclude.

Editor’s Note: “There’s a natural deterioration process that occurs in the brain as people age, but the brain is great at compensating for that,” explained first author Cutter Lindbergh. “One way it compensates is by calling on more brain power to get a job done so it can maintain the same level of cognitive performance.

“It’s in the interest of society to look at ways to buffer these declining processes to prolong functional independence in older adults,” he noted. “Changing diets or adding supplements to increase lutein and zeaxanthin levels might be one strategy to help with that.”


* J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2017 Jan;23(1):11-22.

Autistic Children Benefit From Vitamin D3

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Findings from a randomized trial involving children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) revealed improvement in symptoms of the disorder among those who received vitamin D3 supplementation.*

“This study is the first double-blinded, randomized, controlled trial proving the efficacy of vitamin D3 in ASD patients,” the authors announced.

The trial included 85 boys and 24 girls between the ages of 3 and 10 years diagnosed with ASD. The children were randomized to receive for four months either 300 IU of vitamin D3 per kilogram daily or a placebo. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, autism severity and social maturity were assessed at the beginning and end of the study.

“Autism symptoms—such as hyperactivity, social withdrawal, and others—improved significantly following vitamin D3 supplementation but not after receiving the placebo,” reported lead author Dr. Khaled Saad of Egypt’s Assiut University.

Editor’s Note: “Depending on the parameters measured in the study, oral vitamin D supplementation may safely improve signs and symptoms of ASD and could be recommended for children with ASD,” the authors conclude.


* J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 21.

Cells Programmed to Become Younger

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In a study published in the journal Cell, researchers describe a process whereby reprogramming cells to a younger state can reverse aspects of aging.*

By inducing the expression of four genes known as the Yamanaka factors, any cell can become a pluripotent stem cell which, similar to an embryonic stem cell, is capable of dividing without limit and becoming any cell type.

Although there are dangers in unchecked cell growth, such as cancer, the potential anti-aging benefits for humans are astounding.

In the research, Yamanaka factors were induced for a short period of time in the skin cells of mice with the aging disease progeria. The remarkable results: not only did the mice appear younger, but organ and cardiovascular function improved. They also lived 30% longer than untreated mice and did not develop cancer.

Normal older mice were also treated. This group saw improvement in the regeneration capacity of the pancreas and muscles.

“Our study shows that aging may not have to proceed in one single direction,” stated senior author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte. “It has plasticity and, with careful modulation, aging might be reversed.”

Editor’s Note: “In other studies, scientists have completely reprogrammed cells all the way back to a stem-cell-like state,” said co-first author Pradeep Reddy. “But we show, for the first time, that by expressing these factors for a short duration you can maintain the cell’s identity while reversing age-associated hallmarks.”


* Cell. 2016 Dec 15;167(7):1719-1733.e12.

Magnesium and Chromium Fight Insulin Resistance

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A study conducted by Medical College of Qingdao University has found an improvement in indicators of insulin resistance in middle-aged individuals who supplemented with magnesium and chromium.*

One hundred twenty insulin resistant subjects between the ages of 45 to 59 were divided into groups who received 160 mcg per day of chromium, 200 mg per day of magnesium, chromium plus magnesium, or a placebo for three months. Fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, insulin resistance index, and T-lymphocyte messenger RNA levels of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4, a protein that transports glucose) and glycogen-synthase-kinase-3β (GSK-3β, an enzyme) were determined before and after treatment.

In the group that received both magnesium and chromium, fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, insulin resistance index, and GSK-3β were significantly lower at the end of the study. Additionally, a 2.9-fold increase in GLUT4 was observed only among those who received both minerals.

Editor’s Note: “GLUT4 and GSK-3β are important components in an insulin-induced signal transduction pathway that plays a key role in glucose metabolism,” authors Mei Dou, PhD, and colleagues explain. “Increased expression of GLUT4 has been associated with enhanced glucose translocation from the exterior to the interior of cells in insulin-sensitive tissues and repression of GSK-3β has been shown to enhance insulin receptor activity.

“The results of the present study suggest the therapeutic potential of combined chromium/magnesium therapy in insulin resistant individuals.”


* Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2016 Dec;25(4):747-753.

Calcium Supplementation Safe for Hearts

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The journal Annals of Internal Medicine has revealed a new evidence-based guideline from the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the American Society for Preventive Cardiology which affirms that calcium from supplements or food that doesn’t exceed the tolerable upper intake level of 2,000 to 2,500 mg per day is safe for the heart.*

The updated guideline is the result of a review of four randomized trials and 27 studies conducted by a team from Tufts University Medical School.

Among clinical trials there was no statistically significant difference in cardiovascular disease risk or mortality between subjects who received calcium in comparison with the placebo groups. No cohort study conclusively linked calcium intake—whether from diet, supplements or both—to cardiovascular disease or mortality from any cause.

Editor’s Note: “On the basis of our assessments of internal validity, precision of risk estimates, and consistency of results from randomized trials and prospective cohort studies, we conclude that calcium intake (from either food or supplement sources) at levels within the recommended tolerable upper intake range is not associated with cardiovascular disease risks in generally healthy adults,” Mei Chung, MPH, PhD, and colleagues write.


* Ann Intern Med. 2016 Dec 20;165(12):856-866.