Natural compounds found in apples can improve brain function, according to a new study from the International Society for Stem Cell Research. Using a mouse model, the experts demonstrated that apples and other fruits help stimulate the production of new brain cells, and may ultimately boost learning and memory.
Phytonutrients are chemical substances in plants that are known to have positive effects on the body. For example, resveratrol is a phytonutrient that is found in the skin of red grapes that is associated with a reduced risk of age-related conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
“Apart from being a source of energy, food is known to influence an individual’s overall fitness. A growing number of studies have demonstrated the health benefits of phytochemicals, the chemical substances found in plants. Active dietary compounds are also vital for maintaining cognitive function,” wrote the study authors.
The researchers set out to investigate the neural effects of specific compounds in apples. They discovered that high concentrations of phytonutrients found in apples can stimulate the process of neurogenesis, during which new brain cells are formed.
The study was focused on lab-grown stem cells from adult mouse brains. The researchers added phytonutrients commonly found in apples, including quercetin or dihydroxybezoic acid (DHBA), to the cell cultures. As a result, the stem cells appeared to be protected from death and generated more brain cells.
Further experiments showed that, in distinct brain structures associated with learning and memory, stem cells multiplied and produced more neurons when the mice were given high doses of quercetin or DHBA.
According to the researchers, the effects on neurogenesis were comparable to beneficial effects that have been observed after physical exercise, which is a known stimulus for neurogenesis.
Further research is needed to determine if quercetin, DHBA, and other phytonutrients can enhance learning and cognitive function.
The study is published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.