Starting to forget things? Remember this word: “luteolin.”
A diet rich in the plant compound luteolin could reduce age-related inflammation in the brain. And it could reduce related memory deficits by stopping the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain, according to a new study in the “Journal of Nutrition.”
Luteolin is found in many plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary, and chamomile.
Inside the brain are immune cells called “microglial” cells. An infection stimulates microglia to produce molecules that spur a whole spectrum of chemical changes in the brain. Some of these induce sleepiness, the loss of appetite, memory deficits, and depressive behaviors that often accompany illness.
The same inflammation also appears to be a key contributor to age-related memory problems. Now, older studies have shown that luteolin has anti-inflammatory effects in the body. However, this new look is the first to suggest that luteolin could improve cognitive health by acting directly on those microglial cells. In this way, it could cut the amount of inflammation that occurs.
In the study, microglial cells exposed to bacteria produced inflammatory molecules that could kill neurons. But if the microglia were exposed to luteolin before they encountered the bacteria, the neurons lived!
Luteolin was preventing inflammation. Later, they tested this idea on mice, fed either a control diet or a luteolin-supplemented diet for four weeks. The researchers assessed the mice’s spatial memory and measured levels of inflammatory markers in the “hippocampus” — a brain region vital to memory.
Normally, older mice show higher levels of inflammation. But older mice on the luteolin-supplemented diet did better on the learning and memory task than the others. And levels of inflammation in their brains were comparable to the younger mice.
Studies have shown that plant compounds such as luteolin can get into the brain. All the data show that keeping a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain. And that will lead to better brain health and better memory. So, while the science community takes a harder look at this link, there is no harm with lining your grocery cart with the luteolin-packed foods.