For millions of people around the world, dementia is a real health issue that takes away their ability to function over time. This disease robs people of their memories and ability to think, and severely impacts the lives of those they love. Now, a new study in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that blueberry vinegar might be a solution to this problem.
Previous research has shown that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – have lower levels of the signaling compound acetylcholine and its receptors within their brains. Other research has also shown that blocking acetylcholine receptors disrupts both learning and memory. Furthermore, drugs to stop breakdown of acetylcholine have been used to fight dementia, but they can be toxic to the liver and don’t last very long in the body.
Other studies have suggested that natural extracts could be a safer treatment option for dementia patients, as these extracts can improve cognition. In addition, fermentation is a natural process that can boost the bioactivity of some natural products. This led researcher Beong-Ou Lim and colleagues to test whether vinegar made from blueberries might help prevent cognitive decline, as blueberries are filled with a wide range of active compounds.
In their experiment, Lim and colleagues gave blueberry vinegar to mice with induced amnesia. Through measuring molecules in their brains, they showed that the vinegar reduced the breakdown of acetylcholine and boosted levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor – a protein associated with maintaining and creating healthy neurons.
The researchers analyzed how the mice performed in mazes and an avoidance test, in order to see how treatment affected cognition. The animals that were treated showed improved performance for both of these tests, which leads researchers to believe that the fermented product improved their short-term memory. Although further testing is needed, these results point to the chance that blueberry vinegar may be a promising food to help treat dementia.