An apple a day keeps dementia at bay

New York: Apples may be effective in preventing ageing of the brain. According to the latest reseach, the juice contains a chemical that boosts an essential neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals released by nerve cells to transmit messages to other nerve cells and are critical for good memory and brain health.

Scientists have previously shown that increasing the amount of acetylcholine in the brain can slow the mental decline found in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researcher Thomas Shea PhD, director of the Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegenration Research at the University of Massachusetts Lowell says: “The findings of the present study show that consumption of antioxidant-rich foods such as apples and apple juice can help reduce problems associated with memory loss.”

Nutritionists already advocate eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, spinach, and strawberries and omega 3 oil to slow age-related mental decline better than using dietary supplements containing purified forms of antioxidants.

In the latest study, researchers looked at the effects on mice. They compared normal adult mice, normal “aged” mice, and special mice that were a genetic model for human Alzheimer’s. Human studies looking at apple consumption are planned.

The study was funded by an unrestricted grant from the US Apple Association and the Apple Products Research & Education Council.

The mice were given either a normal diet, or a diet lacking in essential nutrients, for one month. Some of the mice on the nutrient-poor diet were also given apple juice concentrate mixed in their water.

The results showed that normal adult mice and the genetically-engineered mice on normal diets had the same acetylcholine levels.

In fact, the normal adults had the same acetylcholine levels regardless of diet.

However, the genetically engineered mice on the nutrient-poor diet had lower acetylcholine levels. But this drop was prevented in those given apple juice.

In the aged mice on a normal diet, acetylcholine levels were lower than in the normal adult mice; and their levels were even lower if placed on the nutrient-poor diet. But, again, this decline was prevented by the addition of apple juice to drink.

The mice were also put through maze memory tests. “It was surprising how the animals on the apple-enhanced diets actually did a superior job on the maze tests than those not on the supplemented diet,” says Shea.

The amount of apple juice the mice drank was comparable to drinking about two 8-ounce glasses of apple juice or eating two to three apples a day for humans.