Category Archives: Memory Enhancement

Flavanols in cocoa may reverse age-related memory loss

cocoa-beans-big-SSWe honestly don’t know many people who don’t love chocolate. And we know that there are some important health benefits related to dark chocolate, especially — high levels of antioxidants, lowered blood pressure, and protection against sun damage to the skin, to name a few.

If you’re looking for yet another reason, a new study suggests that a natural compound found in cocoa, tea and some vegetables can reverse age-related memory loss.

The findings suggest that the compound increases connectivity and, subsequently, blood flow in a region of the brain critical to memory, the researchers said.

The study found that flavanols reverse mild memory loss in older adults. Using brain scans and memory tests, the latest study built on previous work showing that flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had improved neuronal connections in mice’s dentate gyrus, a part of the brain involved in memory formation.

But hold that chocolate bar. The researchers also warn that the compound found in cocoa exists only in minuscule amounts in the average chocolate bar compared with the amount used in the study, so gorging on chocolate in the name of health and improving one’s memory could backfire.

“It would make a lot of people happy, but it would also make them unhealthy,” Scott A. Small, a professor of neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Taub Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, said Friday.

Small said that even more important, the new study offers the first direct evidence that memory deteriorates with age because of changes in the dentate gyrus, a region of the hippocampus. Previous studies had shown a link between changes in this region of the brain and normal, age-related memory loss, but the Columbia University study asserts a causal link.

“It more firmly establishes that this is the anatomical source of age-related memory loss,” Small, the study’s senior author, said. He said the study also offered yet more evidence that diet and healthy lifestyles that increase blood flow to the brain can slow or reverse age-related cognitive decline.

The study involved 37 healthy subjects who ranged in age from 50 to 69. On a random basis, they were given either a high-flavanol diet, consuming 900 milligrams a day, or a low flavanol diet, consuming 10mg per day. Brain scans, which measure blood volume in the dentate gyrus, and memory tests were used to evaluate the effect of the diet. Small said the typical candy bar contains about 40mg of flavanols.

Researchers said that if a person had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months, on average, that person’s memory would function more like a 30- or 40-year-old’s. The researchers also cautioned that more work is needed because of the study’s small sample size.

The compounds appear to enhance connectivity and metabolic activity in the dentate gyrus. Aging appears to reduce the synapses, or connections, between neurons in that part of the brain. That decline, however, is not related to severe memory loss and cell death in Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, Small said.

While it doesn’t appear that we can reverse age-related memory loss with chocolate alone (moderation is key to enjoying its health benefits), FoodFacts.com wants to point out that green tea, apples, red grapes, red wine and pomegranates are all fine sources of flavanols. There are many ways to make sure we’re getting the benefits of flavanols through our diet. And for chocolate lovers, well — it’s certainly another great reason to indulge — in moderation, of course — in our favorite sweet treat!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/compound-in-chocolate-found-to-reverse-age-related-memory-loss-study-finds/2014/10/26/cee91aac-5bcb-11e4-bd61-346aee66ba29_story.html

Caffeine wakes up your memory!

For generations, coffee drinkers have attested to the idea that their favorite hot beverage helps “keep them sharp.” Tea drinkers have insisted that a hot steamy cup is more than just comforting, it’s a “pick me up,” too. A new study suggesting that caffeine might actually enhance memory could be a reasonable explanation for those claims.

There are many ways people consume caffeine, including in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate, says the study’s lead author Michael Yassa. It doesn’t matter what the source is, the effect of caffeine will likely be the same, he says.
Yassa and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University recruited 160 young, healthy participants, who did not regularly consume caffeinated products. The participants studied a series of images, then five minutes later, took either 200 milligrams of caffeine in tablet form, about the amount of caffeine in a strong cup of coffee, or a placebo.

The next day, participants were asked to identify images they had seen the day before. Some images were new, and some were similar but not exactly the same. For example, if they were shown a picture of a yellow rubber duck originally, the next day, it was a picture of a rubber duck that was shorter and thicker, says Yassa, who was at Johns Hopkins when the study was conducted but now is an assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California-Irvine.

Findings published in the journal Nature Neuroscience: The people who consumed caffeine were more likely to correctly identify the similar items as slightly different from the original picture. The brain’s ability to recognize the difference between two similar but not identical items reflects a deep level of memory discrimination, Yassa says.

Another example of pattern separation is remembering where one’s car is parked today vs. yesterday, he says. “This type of discrimination is involved in every facet of memory,” Yassa says.

The researchers also had participants consume 100 milligrams and 300 milligrams of caffeine and found 100 milligrams was not effective at getting the memory boost, Yassa says. The 300-milligrams dose was no more effective than 200 milligrams, and at the higher amount, people started to report some side effects such as headaches and feeling jittery, he says. “The 200-milligram might be the most optimal dose to get this memory boost.”

One strong cup of coffee might contain 200 milligrams of caffeine, he says. A typical espresso has 80 milligrams, so a double-shot latte will have 160 milligrams, he says.

Other research has found that low doses of caffeine have beneficial effects on attention and focus, Yassa says. A few studies on caffeine’s effect on humans have found little or no effect on long-term memory retention, but numerous studies in animals have shown that caffeine has a beneficial effect, he says.

While this study is encouraging, he cautions that high doses of caffeine can have negative effects, such as anxiety, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and headaches. “I’m not going to stop drinking my coffee, but it’s important to be aware of the costs and benefits,” he says. “Drinking coffee late at night is not going to be helpful for most people.”

Everyone in the FoodFacts.com community is aware of the negative effects of overdoing caffeine. But we also know there are plenty of coffee and tea drinkers out there who will appreciate the findings of this study. It’s another good reason to enjoy their favorite morning brew, especially in these chilly winter months!

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/13/caffeine-boosts-memory/4457591/

Get a brain power boost — drink green tea!!!

We’ve always heard that green tea provides great support for our memories. FoodFacts.com came across new information today that supports the discovery that the chemical properties of green tea actually affect the generation of brain cells, providing benefits not only for memory, but spatial learning as well.

The research was conducted by the Third Military Medical University in China and published this month in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. The research has uncovered evidence that the properties of green tea may actually impact cellular mechanisms in the brain.

The researchers focused on the organic chemical epigallocatechin-3 gallate, which is an important property of green tea. EGCG is an antioxidant and the researchers believed that it could be beneficial in combating age-related degenerative diseases. It was felt that EGCG can impact the generation of neuron cells, so they focused the research on the hippocampus – the area in the brain that processes information including short-term and long-term memory.

The team discovered that their ideas were correct – EGCG increases the production of neural progenitor cells. These cells – like stem cells can differentiate into different kinds of brain cells. They then went further, using laboratory mice to find out whether the increase in this cell production increased memory or spatial learning. The mice were split into two groups – one given green tea and one which was not. The mice were then trained for three days to find a visible platform in a maze. Then they were trained for seven days to find a platform hidden in the maze.

The mice treated with EGCG found the hidden platform in less time, revealing that EGCG enhanced learning and memory, improves object recognition and spatial memory. The research concluded that in both laboratory tests and tests in mice, EGCG does directly increase the production of neural progenitor cells and points to the potential of the chemical and the green tea which contains it to aid in combating degenerative diseases and memory loss.

FoodFacts.com was excited to learn how an organic chemical present in something as simple as green tea holds great potential aid in the solution to the problems related to aging. And while we’re waiting for more substantiating research, we think we’ll be including green tea in our diets much more often starting right now!
Read more:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905083852.htm