Study: Antioxidant supplement can offer speedy brain benefits in younger adults

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages -	Extreme Media
GettyImages - Extreme Media

Related tags pqq Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company Cognitive function Brain health Cognitive health Antioxidant Efsa

A new study conducted by Mitsubishi Gas Chemical (MGC) has investigated the effects of its all-natural ingredient MGCPQQ on cognitive function in adults, concluding that it provided “unexpected and significant” benefits in the younger cohort of participants.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study researched the effects of pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) - a redox cofactor and antioxidant chemical compound - on cognitive function in healthy Japanese adults aged 20-65, with resulting data indicating improvements in composite and verbal memory after 12 weeks.

Previous studies​ have proven that PQQ can improve brain function and cognition in older adults, however, this new study revealed that the ingredient can also help improve cognitive performance for younger adults, with results seen more quickly.

The authors state: “Age-based analysis indicated that the improvements in cognitive flexibility and executive speed are more effective in young participants. The improvements in the young group were unexpected and significant.”


The MGC-funded study utilised their PQQ ingredient, MGCPQQ, which is a compound made by bacteria, found in fruits and vegetables, and obtained using fermentation and purification.

Previous studies​ have reported the functions of PQQ to include mitochondrial biogenesis, promoting longevity, antioxidant activity, and improving skin texture. Past in vitro studies​ have also reported that PQQ has a strong neuroprotective effect against neurotoxicity and enhances the expression of nerve growth factor (NGF).

Additionally, PQQ reportedly improves​ attention, information identification and processing, language memory, immediate memory, working memory, and sleep as well as reduces stress and fatigue.

The authors of the study state: “MGCPQQ can help stimulate mitochondria and support nerve growth factor, leading to positive effects on stress, fatigue, sleep, and vigour. Its functions have been fully characterised and widely tested in approximately hundreds of animal and human studies over the course of four decades.”

According to the authors of the study, MGCPQQ is the only PQQ to be successfully evaluated for its safety and quality by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and appear on the European Union’s approved list of Novel Foods Ingredients. 

They state: “It remains the most researched and studied ingredient of its kind globally. For that reason, it is the only PQQ legally allowed to be sold in the EU.”

The study

The new study assessed brain functions in 66 adults being supplemented with MGCPQQ, alongside a control group being given a placebo. 

Participants were administered 20 mg of MGCPQQ for 12 weeks in capsule form and the control group was given a replica placebo capsule containing no MGCPQQ. Every participant ingested one capsule along with water after breakfast, every day.

A computerised neurocognitive test (a Cognitrax test) was conducted online by all participants, with inspections carried out on day one, and at 8 weeks and 12 weeks of ingestion. The test comprised of analysis of 15 kinds of brain function: composite memory, verbal memory, visual memory, psychomotor speed, reaction time, complex attention, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, executive speed, social acuity, reasoning, working memory, sustained attention, simple attention, and motor speed.

Participants were grouped by age when data was analysed, with the ‘old’ group including individuals aged 41–65 years, and the ‘young’ group including individuals aged 20–40 years. 

Younger adults demonstrated improvements in a range of cognitive functions after 8 weeks while older adults showed enhancements in complex and verbal memory after 12 weeks. 

It was noted that composite and verbal memories were improved in the MGCPQQ group in older adults, yet in contrast, the young group did not show a significant difference. The authors note that it is plausibly because this group's composite memory was good from the beginning.


The authors of the study hypothesise that a quicker reaction rate in the young group is because cognitive function improves faster in the young group than in the old group. They state: “It is consistent with the fact that ageing is known to lower basal metabolism​.”

They also noted: “The effect of PQQ is closely related to the metabolism of mitochondrial neoplasia​ and activation. Therefore, active metabolism in young individuals could contribute to the differential improvement in cognitive function by age.

“It is expected that young people with a high metabolism will show improved brain function early by mitochondrial activation. Increased metabolism results in an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species. Thus, the high antioxidant activity of PQQ could contribute to improved cognitive function​, especially in younger individuals.”

Vitafoods 2023

Mitsubishi Gas Chemical will be presenting MGCPQQ and their new study, at Vitafoods 2023. 

Journal: Food and Function

“Pyrroloquinoline quinone disodium salt improves brain function in both younger and older adults.”

Authors: Masanori Tamakoshi, Tomomi Suzuki, Eiichiro Nishihara, Shinichiro Nakamura, and Kazuto Ikemoto

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