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Monday October 2, 2000 

Press Release

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Nutrition

Potential Memory Retention and Vision Benefits Found in Eggs

Preliminary Research Published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition (JACN) Supplement

NEW YORK, Oct. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- A scientific review article published in today's Journal of the American College of Nutrition supplement reports that the nutrient choline, when taken during pregnancy, may be key in the development of an infant's memory function and may improve memory capability later in life. In another paper published in the JACN supplement, research shows two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, may significantly reduce the risk of cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Eggs are cited as an important dietary source of choline as well as lutein and zeaxanthin and, in the case of the latter two, research shows eggs to be a more highly bioavailable form than other food sources.

Choline Deemed a Memory Booster

``Research with animal models shows that if a mother doesn't have enough choline during pregnancy, the fetus' brain doesn't develop normally and the baby can be born either with defective memory or lower memory capabilities that lasts throughout their life,'' says choline article author Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health and School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. ``I think that pregnant women should consume a balanced diet containing a variety of foods, and that one or two eggs a day can only be helpful in terms of delivering the right amount of choline during pregnancy.''

Dr. Zeisel's article examines choline's role during pregnancy in the development of critical areas of the fetus' brain and its impact on brain function later in life. In research using laboratory rats that received choline supplements (in utero or during the second week of life), Dr. Zeisel found that the rats' brain function changed, resulting in lifelong memory enhancement. The change in memory function appears to be due to changes in the development of the memory center (hippocampus) in the brain. These findings indicate that choline, when added to the mother's diet during formation of the fetus' brain memory center, may boost memory retention later on.

Choline, a nutrient essential for normal functioning of all cells, assures the structural development and signaling functions of cell membranes. In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences, USA, issued a report identifying choline as a required nutrient and added it to the list of recommended daily intake amounts. Dr. Zeisel's review supports other research showing that pregnancy is a time when special attention should be given to diet, and when certain nutrients, such as folate and choline, are critical at specific times during brain development.

Research Eyes Link Between Diet and Vision Health

Also published in today's JACN supplement is a paper discussing the role of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, found in certain vegetables and eggs, in reducing risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the eye lens and macular region of the retina. Researchers believe that these carotenoids may act to protect the eye from oxidative damage and thereby may play a critical role in visual function. Some observational studies have shown that generous intakes of these carotenoids from foods like spinach and eggs are associated with significant reduction in the risk of cataract (up to 20 percent) and age-related macular degeneration (up to 40 percent). Research has also shown that eggs in particular are a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin because eggs provide an excellent lipid matrix, making the carotenoids more readily absorbed.

``This is particularly good news for seniors who are most prone to cataracts and AMD,'' says article author, Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition and Senior Scientist at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. ``Furthermore, foods like eggs are a nutritious, affordable and easy to digest food and we now know from research that eggs are not a risk factor for heart disease for most people, including seniors.''

A cataract is a clouding over of the eye lens that causes decreased visual acuity and can lead to blindness. More common with age, today there are more than one million lens extractions performed annually in the U.S. due to cataracts. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in those 65 and older, affecting 13 million Americans.

``Although additional research studies on the relationship between egg consumption and diseases of the eye are necessary,'' says Blumberg,`` these findings show promise as a key to decreasing the risk of leading eye diseases.''

Editor Note: Drs. Zeisel and Blumberg are available for interviews/

The October 2000 JACN Supplement contains proceedings from a health and nutrition conference sponsored by the American Egg Board/Egg Nutrition Center

Contact Barbara King of Aronow and Pollock Communications, Inc. for Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 212-941-1414

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Nutrition

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