An apple a day to keep dementia at bay?
Natural compounds found in apples and other fruits may help stimulate the production of new brain cells, according to a new study in mice by researchers from the University of Queensland and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.
According to the study, apples are rich in phytochemicals – such as resveratrol in red grapes – which can have positive effects on different parts of the body, including the brain, where they can fuel neurons, improving learning and memory.
Researchers Tara Louise Walker from the University of Queensland and Gerd Kempermann from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and their colleagues found that high concentrations of phytonutrients from apples stimulate the generation of new neurons, a process called neurogenesis.
The study showed that laboratory-grown stem cells from adult mouse brains generated more neurons and were protected from cell death when quercetin or dihydroxybezoic acid (DHBA), phytonutrients commonly found in the peel and flesh of apples, were added to the cultures. Subsequent tests in mice showed that in distinct structures of the adult brain associated with learning and memory, stem cells multiplied and generated more neurons when the mice were given high doses of quercetin or DHBA. The effects on neurogenesis were comparable to effects seen after physical exercise, a known stimulus for neurogenesis.
This study suggests that natural fruit compounds like quercetin, DHBA and potentially others, may act in synergy to promote neurogenesis and brain function when given in high concentrations. More studies will need to be done to determine if these and other phytonutrients can enhance learning and cognitive function in other animals and in humans, but Kempermann says these dietary compounds are vital for maintaining cognitive function.
With new season apples soon arriving in store, this news has arrived at just the right time.