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Cinnamon boosts brain activity

06-Apr-2004

The commonly used spice cinnamon could see new applications in functional foods as findings from the US suggest that chewing cinnamon-flavoured gum could help the memory, reports Lindsey Partos.

Participants at the annual meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences later this month will learn that cinnamon - as a flavour or fragrance - could boost the brain as scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University in the US, led by Dr P. Zoladz, report on their findings.

"Cinnamon, administered retronasally or orthonasally, improved participants' scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor response speed," report the researchers.

They examined the different effects that odourants administered through the nose or mouth had on cognitive performance in adults.

During phase one, participants completed cognitive tasks on a computer-based programme under five 'chewing gum' conditions - no gum, flavourless gum, peppermint gum, cinnamon gum, and cherry gum. For phase two they completed cognitive tasks under four odorant conditions - no odour, peppermint odour, jasmine odour, and cinnamon odour.

"Results revealed a task-dependent relationship between odours and the enhancement of cognitive processing," said the researchers , with cinnamon boasting the strongest link for both fragrance and flavour.

Although further research is required, the findings have implications for the food industry through the eventual development of functional food products for memory development. Research reported last week also noted the properties of an ingredient used in chewing gum and this application area has strong potential for development as a format for functional foods.

"Findings from the present study are most promising in providing a non-pharmacological adjunct to enhancing cognition in the elderly, individuals with test-anxiety, and perhaps even patients with diseases that lead to cognitive decline," concluded the US researchers who will present their study in Sarasota, Florida at the Association for Chemoreception Sciences meeting that runs from 21-25 April.

Cinnamon has previously been shown to significantly reduce the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes.

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