Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Luteolin-rich Foods Shown to Reduce Brain Inflammation, Boost Memory

According to a study in the October 2010 Journal of Nutrition, loading up on luteolin-rich foods is a first smart step toward a healthier working memory.

Luteolin is a biochemical agent that can significantly reduce inflammation, thanks to its potent antioxidant activities . . . not to mention its other functions as a supernutrient (bioflavonoid), carbohydrate metabolism promoter, immune system modulator and free radical scavenger.

Rodney Johnson, lead researcher of the University of Illinois study and director of the university’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, states that inflammation in the brain “appears to be a key contributor to age-related memory problems.”

His research investigated microglial cells—immune cells in the brain/spinal cord—that when instigated by infection release cytokines, causing a series of chemical shifts. Sleepiness, not-as-sharp memory, depressed attitudes and appetite loss result from illness stoked by these inflammatory cytokines.

Per Johnson, his team previously found that during normal aging, “microglial cells become dysregulated and begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines.”

The researchers believe that is what ultimately contributes to cognitive aging and what also is a predisposing factor for the development of neurodegenerative disease.

The study, according to a University of Illinois site article, is the first to “suggest luteolin improves cognitive health by acting directly on the microglial cells to reduce production of inflammatory cytokines in the brain.”

Memory restored to earlier age levels. The study’s subjects were mice—older mice typically have high levels of inflammatory molecules in their hippocampus, a key brain region for memory and spatial awareness.

But the aged mice on a luteolin diet . . .

• performed better on “learning and memory task” than peers

• had lower levels of inflammatory cytokines, more like those of younger adult mice

Johnson says that providing a luteolin diet to the older mice “reduced inflammation in the brain and at the same time restored working memory to what was seen in young cohorts.”

With that, Johnson and his team believe “dietary luteolin accesses the brain and inhibits or reduces activation of microglial cells and inflammatory cytokines they produce. The anti- inflammatory effect is likely the mechanism which allows their working memory to be restored to what it was at an earlier age.”

What does the data suggest for us?

Per Johnson’s research: Consuming a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health.

So eat up your fill of these luteolin foods and herbs:
  • celery hearts (higher than celery stalk)
  • peppers (hot)
  • rutabagas
  • spinach
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • peppermint
  • basil
  • artichoke leaves
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • peppers (sweet)
  • olive oil
  • lemons
  • water spinach
  • lettuce
  • kohlrabi
  • kale, Chinese
  • gourd, dishcloth
  • celeriac
  • cauliflower
  • brussel sprouts
  • chamomile tea
  • beets


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