Memory boosted by celery, capsicum
Perhaps one of our great shared fears is loss of mental capacity as we age. The thought of not recognising loved ones or being a burden to others is an unpleasant prospect. While the possibility of this happening can never be eradicated it is some comfort to know that some common vegetables might reduce your risk.
Capsicum and celery as well as carrots, olive oil, chamomile, peppermint and rosemary all contain a substance called luteolin. New research has shown that luteolin reduces the chances of memory loss by directly protecting neurons in your brain.
You have specialised cells called microglia, that live in the brain and spinal cord, which produce chemicals that cause inflammation to occur. This is usually stimulated by an infection and causes symptoms that often go with illness like sleepiness, loss of appetite, memory loss, and depression. This brain inflammation is also a central contributor to age-related memory problems.
During normal ageing the microglial cells have been shown to become dysfunctional and begin producing too many inflammatory chemicals.
This research showed that when exposed to a bacteria microglial cells do produce chemicals that can kill neurons. However, when the microglia were exposed to luteolin before being exposed to the bacteria, the neurons did not die.
The neurons survived because the luteolin stopped the microglia producing the damaging chemicals (known as cytokines). Exposing the neurons to the luteolin had no effect so it is the impact on microglia that is saving the neurons.
The next step in the research was to feed luteolin to mice over a four week period. The aged mice (around two years old) that were fed luteolin did better on learning and memory tasks than did mice not fed luteolin. The level of inflammation in the brains of the old mice fed luteolin was also reduced to levels comparable with much younger mice (three to six months old).
All this talk of microglia, cytokines, luteolin, and neurons adds up to one thing: eat your vegetables (especially celery, capsicum, and carrots) if you want to keep your marbles.