Flavanol improves memory in mice, study

By Philippa Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Brain, Better

A plant-derived flavanol found in blueberries, tea, grapes and
cocoa improved memory in mice. It could have the same effect
on humans, according to research published in the Journal of
Neuroscience, and funded by the food company Mars.

Memory improvement increased further when the mice exercised regularly, concluded Henriette van Praag and colleagues from the Salk Institute. "This finding is an important advance because it identifies a single natural chemical with memory-enhancing effects, suggesting that it may be possible to optimize brain function by combining exercise and dietary supplementation,"​ said Mark Mattson from the US' National Institute on Aging Scientists found that when mice were fed the flavanol known as epicatechin and then exercised, they experienced structural and functional changes in the dentate gyrus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. These findings suggested that a diet rich in flavonols could help reduce the incidence or severity of neurodegenerative diseases or cognitive disorders related to ageing. Van Praag and her team compared mice fed a typical diet with those fed a diet supplemented with epicatechin. Half the mice in each group were also allowed to run on a wheel for two hours each day. After a month, the mice were trained to find a platform hidden in a pool of water. Those that both exercised and ate the epicatechin diet remembered the location of the platform longer than the other mice. When studying their brains, van Praag and her colleagues found that the mice supplemented with epicatechin had greater blood vessel growth in the dentate gyrus and had developed more mature nerve cells. Further analysis showed that the epicatechin and exercise combination had a beneficial effect on the expression of those genes that are important for learning and memory. The researchers found that sedentary mice fed epicatechin showed enhanced memory, blood vessel growth and gene activity, but these benefits were even more evident in mice that also exercised. "A logical next step will be to study the effects of epicatechin on memory and brain blood flow in aged animals and then humans, combined with mild exercise,"​ said van Praag Epicatechin has been shown previously to improve cardiovascular function in humans and increase blood flow in the brain. The work was a supported by a grant from the US Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Mars, which markets a flavonol-rich line of chocolate, supplied the epicatechin. Source: Journal of Neuroscience (Society for Neuroscience) May 30 2007, Volume 27, Issue 22 "Plant-Derived Flavanol (-)Epicatechin Enhances Angiogenesis and Retention of Spatial Memory in Mice" Authors: H van Praag, MJ Lucero, GW Yeo, K Stecker, N Heivand, C Zhao, E Yip, M Afanador, H Schroeter, J Hammerstone, and FH Gage

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Cognitive Support across Life Stages

Cognitive Support across Life Stages

Kerry | 16-Nov-2022 | Infographic

Proactive adults of all ages see the value of cognitive support, whether for themselves or for more vulnerable family members such as aging parents. 60%...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more