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University of Queensland and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases

An apple a day may keep Alzheimer’s disease away

‘An apple a day’ might keep dementia at bay. According to an international study the fruit is rich in chemicals that fuel neurons, improving learning and memory. Recent experiments on natural compounds found in apples and other fruits may help to stimulate the production of new brain cells, which could have implications for learning and memory, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Queensland, and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

The tests, done on mice, discovered grey matter increased after they were injected with phytonutrients, like flavonoids, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables. The effects were similar to those seen after exercise, which can also boost brain function.

Professor Gerd Kempermann from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases says these dietary compounds are “vital for maintaining cognitive function.”: “They can have positive effects on different parts of the body – including the brain.”

The antioxidants dampen inflammation and strengthen the immune system. Researchers took stem cells from the brains of lab rodents and cultured them in petri dishes. After adding apple extracts like quercetin or DHBA (dihydroxybezoic acid), more neurons grew and fewer died.

“High concentrations of phytonutrients from apples stimulate the generation of new neurons – a process called neurogenesis,” Kempermann explains. The results, published in Stem Cell Reports, were then confirmed in trials involving actual mice. Stem cells multiplied and produced more neurons after the scientists added in high doses of quercetin or DHBA.

Specifically, this applied to distinct structures in the adult brain including the hippocampus, vital for memory, learning, and navigation.

“Apples contain pro-neurogenic compounds in both their peel and their flesh,” study authors write in their report.

“Future studies will be required to determine if these and other phytonutrients can enhance learning and cognitive function in animal models – and in humans,” Kempermann adds.


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