March 16, 2011

Can one single nutrient restore your memory to "youthful levels"?

Nobody wants to lose their memory. Of all the health conditions I treat, memory loss and cancer are the two that produce the most fear. So when I read the results of a study on one single nutrient that reverses memory loss, I was intrigued. I've read a lot of studies that promise these results. And many of them deliver. But this one got me excited.

This report says a common bioflavonoid could play a major role in protecting your brain neurons. And it can even restore a youthful memory.

In this study, scientists studied the effects of the bioflavonoid, luteolin, in mice. Luteolin is common in carrots, peppers, celery, peppermint, chamomile, rosemary, olive oil, and more. The team didn't focus on neurons. Instead, they looked at cells that support neurons called microglial cells. These are specialized immune cells that reside in your brain and spinal cord.

Think back when you have been ill. Feeling sick might include sleepiness, loss of appetite, memory deficits, depression, etc. Inflammation appears to stimulate these. When infected, the microglial cells generate inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. These can trigger your symptoms.

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Of course, we need inflammation to protect us from invaders. But you have to temper inflammation. Too much is not a good thing. In this case, the inflammatory cytokines can directly damage and even kill neurons. During "normal" aging, microglial cells become dysregulated. They begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines!

Lead investigator Prof. Rodney Johnson (Univ. of Illinois) said something many doctors don't consider. He said that inflammation might be a key contributor of age-related memory problems.

Previous studies have found anti-inflammatory effects of luteolin. But this was the first to investigate the compound's effect on microglial cells.

The researchers exposed microglial cells to a bacterial toxin. The cells, in turn, generated potent inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines were capable of killing neurons. When they exposed the microglial cells to luteolin before encountering the toxin, the neurons lived. Johnson said that's because the luteolin inhibited the production of the inflammatory chemicals. Exposing the neurons to the luteolin before the toxin offered no protection. That proved that the luteolin's effect was on the microglial cells.

But the researchers did something else that really astounded me. I'll tell you about it in Friday's alert — and why this nutrient is vital for anyone over the age of 50. You won't want to miss it.

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