In a new study, aged laboratory animals that ate a diet rich in the berry and grape compound pterostilbene performed better than those in a group that did not eat the enriched diet, scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have reported. Pterostilbene reversed measurable negative effects of aging on brain function and behavioral performance.
Neuroscientist James Joseph, psychologist Barbara Shukitt-Hale and colleagues at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass., collaborated on the study with chemist Agnes Rimando of the ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Laboratory in Oxford, Miss.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
For the two-part study, the researchers wanted to determine if pterostilbene would be effective in reversing the effects of aging on mature rats.
For the first part of the study, they tested seven stilbene compounds in cell cultures and found that pterostilbene was the most effective at preventing oxidative stress. For the second part of the study, they fed aged rats one of three diets: control, or control adjusted to include either low or high concentrations of pterostilbene.
The results indicated that in aging rats, pterostilbene was effective in reversing cognitive decline and that improved working memory was linked to pterostilbene levels in the hippocampus region of the brain.
The study results are the latest in a series of ARS cell culture and animal model studies published in the last decade that shed light on relationships between various dietary components and brain function while aging. The authors noted that there are additional berry compounds showing similar potential, which they continue to investigate in animal and cell models.
The researchers followed protocols approved by the Frederick, Md.-based Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International and a Boston, Mass.-based Internal Animal Care Review Committee.
ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.