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D.iet & H.ealth : G.eneral H.ealth Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Compound found in strawberries may boost long-term memory
By Kathy Jones
Oct 21, 2006, 00:41

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Strawberries may boost long-term memory and could provide a way to prevent mental decline in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The researchers report that a compound called fisetin present in many fruits and vegetables was able to augment the long-term memory in healthy mice.

Fisetin is a flavonoid that is abundant in most fruits and vegetables including strawberries, tomatoes, onions, oranges, apples, peaches, grapes, kiwifruit and persimmons. The Salk researchers wanted to test the effect of this compound on the memory of healthy mice.

The intention of the study was to analyze whether fisetin could be another way to ward off Alzheimer's disease, which affects nearly one third of people over the age of 60. Sign included progressive dementia coupled with an increasingly dormant memory.

"Since the development of a basic understanding of the biochemical pathways involved in memory formation, the holy grail of CNS research in the pharmaceutical industry is the identification of a safe, orally active drug that activates memory-associated pathways and enhances memory," said lead author Pamela Maher, Ph.D., a researcher in the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute.

The researchers found that fisetin had many anti-oxidant qualities, which place it in a unique position to offer neuroprotective benefits. Maher said the compound appeared to protect nerves in tissue cultures containing models of neurodegenerative disease.

Fisetin appears to activate a pathway that helps in a type of memory formation called "long-term potentiation" or LTP. This pathway helps store memories by forming strong connections between neurons, the researchers added.

In order to test the effect of fisetin on memory, the researchers exposed healthy mice to two objects every day. The next day one of the objects would be twisted out of shape, while the other would be a new one. Researchers said that mice who had received fisetin injections had better recall of the previous day's objects and would spend less time on it, but would be interested in the new object.

"The good news is that fisetin is readily available in strawberries but the bad news is that because of its natural product status there may be little financial interest in getting it into human clinical trials for diseases associated with memory loss such as Alzheimer's, where the treatment options are currently very limited," said Maher.

The details of the study are reported in this week's Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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