Antioxidants, Over Time, Support Aging
Minds By Rosalie Marion Bliss
August 6, 2007
A change in diet could stall or reverse some of the functional losses
in brain power that occur with aging, at least if humans react to the diet the
same way rats do. That's according to the results of a study, conducted by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists, in which "elderly" rats that were fed a high-antioxidant
dietfor the equivalent of about 10 years in humansreversed
age-related shortfalls in neuronal and cognitive function. Cognitive function
involves the ability to use information to meet the challenges of daily
Shukitt-Hale and molecular biologist Francis Lau described the study and
others in a review article appearing in Neurobiology of Aging.
The scientists work at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on
in Boston, Mass. Joseph leads the HNRCA's
Laboratory. ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency.
In one of the studies, three groups of ratsequivalent in age to
63-year-old-humanswere fed extracts of either spinach, strawberry or
blueberry along with their chow. A control group was fed only standard chow.
When the rats were equivalent in age to 73-year-old humans, their performance
levels were measured.
Rats fed the blueberry extract far outperformed their peers while
traversing a rotating rod to test balance and coordination. Further laboratory
examination of the blueberry-fed rats showed much higher levels of dopamine in
the brain than was found in rats among the other groups. Dopamine is one of
several chemical neurotransmitters that help the brain's billions of neurons
"talk" to one another. It plays a role in many brain functions, including the
way the brain controls movements.
Further studies with human volunteers are needed to assess whether
similar improvements would be found in humans.
about this research in the August 2007 issue of Agricultural Research