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.
Drinking blueberry vinegar could stave off dementia, say scientists who discovered it the memory of mice with amnesia returned after they were fed it (stock image)
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.
DEMENTIA: THE STATISTICS
There are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide.
That means someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.
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 and 131.5 million in 2050.
Much of the increase will be in developing countries.
Many people are now living longer and healthier lives and so the world population has a greater proportion of older people.
The escalating dementia crisis will place huge pressures on health and social care services.
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 analysed 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
A SALAD A DAY KEEPS THE BRAIN 11 YEARS YOUNGER
Eating greens or salad every day boosts our memory, according to research.
The findings suggest that eating about one serving per day of green, leafy vegetables may be linked to a slower rate of brain ageing – the equivalent of keeping our brain 11 years younger.
The Rush University study found that people who ate at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who never or rarely ate them.
Salad eaters’ brains functioned as though they were more than a decade younger than those of people who did not eat their greens.
Study author Professor Martha Clare Morris, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said: ‘Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health.’
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.’