Originally published February 17 2014
Polyphenol supplements improve brain function in older adults
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) One of the unfortunate realities of growing older is that, over time, cognitive acuity tends to fade as a result of oxidative stress and inflammation, two of the most significant factors associated with early aging and chronic disease. But new research out of Florida has found that the aging process can be significantly slowed through a high intake of antioxidants, particularly those found naturally in blueberries.
Known as polyphenols, these antioxidants possess the unique ability to both protect and boost the performance of brain neurons, which in turn helps promote clear and critical thinking. These compounds also help initiate the production of new stem cells in the brain, cells that are used by the body to promote healing and rejuvenation throughout the entire nervous system.
These and other benefits were observed during a human trial that recently took place at the University of South Florida (USF). Two groups made up of 105 healthy adults ranging in age from 65 to 85 were assigned to take either a supplement containing extracts of blueberry and green tea combined with vitamin D3 and amino acids, or a placebo, for two months. None of the participants had pre-existing memory disorders of any kind.
The goal of the two-month study was to see whether or not the group taking the supplement with the fruit and plant extracts, referred to as NT-020, fared any better than the placebo group in terms of improved cognitive capacity and performance. Both groups were also assessed to see whether or not the supplement in question can help improve the speed of thinking and learning, not to mention slow the overall aging process.
What was discovered is that polyphenols play an important role in maintaining a healthy brain, and this shows after just 60 days of therapeutic supplementation. Not only did those participants who took the NT-020 supplement perform better in memory and cognitive tests than those in the placebo group, but they were also able to think and process information more quickly than the others.
"After two months, test results showed modest improvements in two measures of cognitive processing speed for those taking NT-020 compared to those taking placebo," said Brent Small, Ph.D., from the USF School of Aging Studies. "Processing speed is most often affected early on in the course of cognitive aging. Successful performance in processing tasks often underlies more complex cognitive outcomes, such as memory and verbal ability."
Polyphenols elevate brain levels, protect against dementia Earlier research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that, in addition to elevating brain levels, natural polyphenols help block the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. These toxic plaques are believed to be directly associated with the formation of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
This same research concluded that the many unique polyphenols -- these include gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin and their various metabolites -- found in blueberries, grapes and other foods are delivered directly to the brain upon consumption. Once there, these nutrients are broken down and utilized to repair brain cells and optimize neuronal function, among other things.
"The basis for the use of polyphenol-rich nutritional supplements as a moderator of age-related cognitive decline is the age-related increase in oxidative stress and inflammation," adds Paula C. Bickford, a lead investigator and co-author of the study from the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
"Non-vitamin polyphenols are the most abundant modulators of oxidative stress and inflammation in our diet. NT-020 is 95 percent polyphenols."
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