If you’re over 50, and are having trouble remembering where you left the keys, researchers want you.
A study, based on work that has shown fruits such as cherries, berries, and stone fruits contain compounds that are good for the brain, hopes to find a simple and delicious way to slow memory decline.
Anthocyanins, a subclass of nutrients called flavonoids, are the compounds that provide the purple, red, and blue pigments in fruits such as plums, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, and blueberries.
They are also found in red wine, tea, coffee, and some vegetables such as red onion, red cabbage, and eggplant.
Anthocyanin-rich fruits can benefit brain health in a number of ways: inhibiting death of nerve cells (neurons), improving connections between the neurons – especially in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with learning and memory – as well as protecting cells from oxidative damage and reducing inflammation in the brain.
Other work has shown that consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice improved memory in older adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s type dementia after 12 weeks.
The University of Wollongong research team, led by Associate Professor Karen Charlton in the School of Medicine, is now focusing attention on people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
People experiencing MCI may undergo changes to their thinking skills, such as impaired memory, trouble with problem solving, difficulty finding the right word, paying attention or maintaining concentration.
“Everyone experiences occasional difficulties recalling a name or trouble remembering the right word, especially as they grow older,” lead researcher Associate Professor Karen Charlton said.
“However, people with MCI may forget important information such as appointments, conversations or even recent events. Alternatively, they may experience difficulty with thinking skills such as language, attention, the ability to make sound decisions or visual perception.”
The study will investigate whether consumption of anthocyanin-rich fruit juice will result in better outcomes after completion of a six-week memory training program compared to taking just the memory training.
“Memory training programs can prevent MCI worsening as well as develop skills to recall information and there is some evidence that diet can help too,” Associate Professor Charlton said.
“It is exciting to be at the forefront of research that may help prevent further memory decline in people with early signs, especially if it’s as easy as including delicious fruits on the daily menu.”
Her group is working with a range of fruits, including the Australian-bred Queen Garnet plum. It has more than double the levels of anthocyanins found in other plums.
STUDY PARTICIPANTS WANTED
Researchers at the University of Wollongong are inviting adults aged 50 years and over who have been diagnosed with memory complaints to participate in a new research study.
As well as attending a memory clinic weekly for 6 weeks, participants will be required to consume a fruit juice drink each day.
Changes in memory and concentration will be measured as well as blood pressure and other markers of cardiovascular health.
People with dementia are not eligible for this study.
If interested, name and contact details can be left at (02) 4221 4754 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A researcher will then follow up by telephone to do an initial screening.