Plant Compounds and Brain Function

When it comes to creating a whole source of protein, we at Parabel wanted to create a plant-based solution that would promote sustainability to help feed our growing population. We certainly set out to provide complete nutrition with our plant-based protein powder, LENTEINTM, but we also are happy to hear of new research being published showing how important plant compounds are for the brain and body. LENTEINTM is a protein powder that is good not only for the muscles, but for the entire body as a whole.

The Study

A recent study performed at the University Of Georgia was designed to research the effects of plant compounds, specifically carotenoids, on cognitive function in aging adults. Researchers knew that lutein and zeaxanthin have shown to improve both eye and cognitive function, but they did not understand what the direct link between these compound and the brain were. For the study forty participants between the ages of 65 and 86 were taught a set of word pairings and later asked to recall them. The amount of zeaxanthin and lutein in the participants bodies were then tested and recorded. To find these levels scientists used both blood serum tests and noninvasive flicker photometry that can detect the amount of compounds present through the retina. They also monitored which sections of the brain the participants were using while recalling their learned word pairings and the results surprised the researchers.

They found that subjects who had higher levels of the plant compounds had higher cognitive function than those who did not. On the surface, each participant was able to recall the word pairings, but the brain pathways used to reach their answers were significantly different. Those with elevated levels of carotenoids used less brain power to recall their words, while the participants with lower levels used much more of their brain, and different parts of their brains to remember the word pairings.

Why Is This Significant?

As we age our brains begin to change. The fatty cells that line our neurons begin to deteriorate and as a result our cognitive function declines. Our brains don’t stop working however, they just work harder. Now that researchers have discovered that these carotenoids can aid brain function as we age, nutrition may be able to be used as a tool to improve cognition in the elderly and significantly improve the quality of life. Further research will be necessary to understand if nutritional supplementation will be able to affect the aging population, specifically how much lutein and zeaxanthin are needed to aid the brain.   

What Are Plant Compounds?  

Now that we know the impact plant compounds can have on the brain, many people will be wondering what they are and how they can be added to a healthy diet. Plant compounds are the chemicals that comprise plants and enable them to grow, metabolize, and reproduce. They are split into two categories: primary and secondary compounds. Primary compounds are responsible for all metabolic functions like growth, photosynthesis, protein synthesis, and respiration. They are found in all plants and include amino acids, nucleotides, phytosterols, and acyl lipids. Secondary compounds are specific to different groups of plants and are present in plants to attract pollinators,and to protect against infections and being eaten. It is in the secondary plant compounds that we find things like carotenoids, tannins, flavonoids, and even caffeine.

How Can I Find Plant Compounds?

Plants are made up of compounds, so it is not hard to find them. However the plants with the most beneficial compounds are often the most rich in color, like dark leafy vegetables or bright vibrant roots like carrots and beets. Eating fresh veggies at every meal can ensure that you’re getting a healthy dose of secondary compounds. Another way to enjoy the benefits of plant compounds in your body is to add them with a plant-based protein powder. LENTEINTM is a unique plant-based protein powder in that it contains high levels of plant compounds and retains their benefits by a careful extraction process. Although the vegetables used in LENTEINTM are no longer “fresh” per-say, they are still whole, easily digestible, and most importantly easy to add to your diet. When looking to improve your brain’s capabilities, don’t forget the importance of plant compounds. Eat a healthy diet full of fresh veggies and incorporate a complete, sustainable plant-based protein powder like LENTEINTM.