Drinking blueberry vinegar – or using it in salad dressings – could stave off dementia, new research suggests.
The condiment, which is produced by allowing the fruit to sour, is rich in a brain-boosting chemical, according to scientists.
Experiments found the memory of mice with amnesia returned after they were fed the fermented product.
After consuming it, they had more of a protein that fuels nerve cells, as well as increased levels of a compound that is destroyed in dementia patients.
Scientists from Konkuk University, Chungju, in South Korea, are hopeful the same will apply to humans.
There were an estimated 50 million people living with dementia and this number is expected to almost double every 20 years, reaching 75 million in 2030.
Currently, there is no cure for the disease but drugs can somewhat slow down its progression.
Key findings of the research
In the study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, tests on the mice given the vinegar showed it reduced the breakdown of a the chemical acetylcholine.
It also increased amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein associated with maintaining and creating healthy neurons.
It has recently been established the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, have lower levels of this signaling compound.
Research has also demonstrated blocking acetylcholine receptors disrupts learning and memory.
Drugs to stop the breakdown of acetylcholine have been developed to fight dementia, but they often don’t last long in the body and can be toxic to the liver.
Natural extracts could be a safer treatment option, and some animal studies suggest these can improve cognition. Additionally, fermentation can boost their bioactivity.
This is the reason why Professor Beong-Ou Lim and his colleagues decided to test whether vinegar made from blueberries, which are packed with a wide range of active compounds, may be effective.
To test how it affected brain power, they analyzed the animals’ performance in mazes and an avoidance test, in which the mice would receive a small electric shock to their feet in one of two chambers.
The treated rodents showed improved performance in both, including remembering in which cage not to enter.
The researchers said it suggests blueberry vinegar improves short-term memory.
A promising treatment
Although further testing is needed, the researchers say it could potentially be a promising food to help treat amnesia and cognitive decline related to ageing.
Professor Lim said: ‘The study aimed to assess the neuronal protective effects of blueberry vinegar on memory impairment.
‘Intriguingly, we found administrated blueberry vinegar at a dose of 120 mg/kg for a week prevented the amnesia model.’
He said the vinegar restored brain function by preventing neuronal damage in the hippocampus, the area that controls memory.
He added: ‘It has been shown a blueberry-rich diet can reduce neuronal loss in the same region.
‘These ﬁndings also strongly suggest blueberry vinegar could be a useful functional material or food to provide the neuroprotective action against oxidative damage in hippocampal tissue.’
‘Blueberry vinegar may be a promising functional material or food for the protective agents of amnesia related cognitive impairment.’
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