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Food, Health, and Eco-news
Aging Brains Appear to Benefit from Foodborne Antioxidants
French team finds flavonoids in colorful plant foods reduce the risk of age-related mental declines 07/02/2007 By Craig Weatherby

The results of many animal and cell experiments support the notion that foodborne antioxidants protect and enhance brain function, with positive findings attached to tea, berries, turmeric, grapes, and cocoa, among other foods and fruit juices rich in polyphenol-type flavonoid antioxidants.


The positive effects seen in lab and animal studies range from beneficial effects on cell signaling to direct antioxidant effects on cell-damaging free radicals and increases in blood flow to the brain.


But surprisingly few studies have looked for confirming evidence from human population or clinical studies.


A French team now reports that diets rich in flavonoidsthe antioxidant compounds in fruit, vegetables, coffee, tea, and chocolatecould reduce the decline in mental function associated with aging.


The researchers, based at INSERMFrance's equivalent of the US National Institutes of Healthrecruited 1,640 subjects with an average age of 77 who showed no signs of dementia at the start of the study.


The participants' estimated intake of flavonoids was assessed using diet surveys administered four times over a 10 year period.


Their level of cognitive function was measured using standard tests.


After adjusting the results for age, sex, and education level, the French group linked higher flavonoid intake with better mental performance at the start of the study and less risk of mental decline over time.


The people with the highest flavonoid intakes displayed better brain function than those with the lowest intakes.


While these encouraging results need confirmation in controlled clinical trials, they fit with everything we know about the effects of flavonoids at the cellular level, and their general ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals and increase blood flow to the brain.



Sources

  • Letenneur L, Proust-Lima C, Le Gouge A, Dartigues J, Barberger-Gateau P. Flavonoid Intake and Cognitive Decline over a 10-Year Period. Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Jun 15;165(12):1364-71. Epub 2007 Mar 16.
  • Lahiri DK. Where the actions of environment (nutrition), gene and protein meet: beneficial role of fruit and vegetable juices in potentially delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Dec;10(4):359-61; discussion 363-4.
  • Dai Q, Borenstein AR, Wu Y, Jackson JC, Larson EB. Fruit and vegetable juices and Alzheimer's disease: the Kame Project. Am J Med. 2006 Sep;119(9):751-9.
  • Ramassamy C. Emerging role of polyphenolic compounds in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases: a review of their intracellular targets. Eur J Pharmacol. 2006 Sep 1;545(1):51-64. Epub 2006 Jun 17. Review.
  • Francis ST, Head K, Morris PG, Macdonald IA. The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young people. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2006;47 Suppl 2:S215-20.
  • Cole GM, Lim GP, Yang F, Teter B, Begum A, Ma Q, Harris-White ME, Frautschy SA. Prevention of Alzheimer's disease: Omega-3 fatty acid and phenolic anti-oxidant interventions. Neurobiol Aging. 2005 Dec;26 Suppl 1:133-6. Epub 2005 Nov 2. Review.
  • Ono K, Yoshiike Y, Takashima A, Hasegawa K, Naiki H, Yamada M. Potent anti-amyloidogenic and fibril-destabilizing effects of polyphenols in vitro: implications for the prevention and therapeutics of Alzheimer's disease. J Neurochem. 2003 Oct;87(1):172-81.
  • Mandel S, Weinreb O, Amit T, Youdim MB. Cell signaling pathways in the neuroprotective actions of the green tea polyphenol (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate: implications for neurodegenerative diseases. J Neurochem. 2004 Mar;88(6):1555-69. Review. Erratum in: J Neurochem. 2004 Apr;89(2):527.
  • Droge W, Schipper HM. Oxidative stress and aberrant signaling in aging and cognitive decline. Aging Cell. 2007 Jun;6(3):361-70.

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