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Compound in strawberries prevents age-related mental decline

Compound in strawberries prevents age-related mental decline
19th July 2017

Eating fruit and vegetables is integral to staying fit and healthy, but there are specific types that can be more beneficial for certain ailments than others. Now, scientists have discovered that fisetin, a compound found in strawberries, is beneficial in preventing the mental decline that is commonly associated with ageing.

Fisetin has been found to ease cognitive deterioration and inflammation, representing additional reasons to have a bowl of the summer fruit. While the research is in its early stages, the findings are promising and could help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive conditions.

The study was carried out at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and was published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A. Pamela Maher, a senior staff scientist in Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, was a senior author of the paper.

She said: “Companies have put fisetin into various health products but there hasn’t been enough serious testing of the compound. Based on our ongoing work, we think fisetin might be helpful as a preventative for many age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, not just Alzheimer’s, and we’d like to encourage more rigorous study of it.”

This latest discovery is just part of the work that Maher has been doing with fisetin over the last ten years. In the past, she has focused on genetic age degeneration, which is responsible for just one to three per cent of cases of Alzheimer’s. The more common sporadic age deterioration is at the centre of this more recent research.

It is thought that astrocytes and microglia, brain cells with anti-inflammatory properties in healthy individuals, can drive inflammation in those with cognitive conditions. Treating individuals with fisetin prevents this from happening and therefore makes simple tasks easier. This, in turn, could lead to more elderly people being able to live independently.

Maher’s research also found no evidence of acute toxicity when high doses of fisetin were administered. This suggests there would be few or no side effects if the compound was marketed as a drug. It is hoped that clinical trials could be carried out moving forward to advance such a process. In the meantime, eating more strawberries during the summer months when they are in season seems like a good course of action.

Cognitive problems are a very real issue for our times, with 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK at present. This figure is expected to rise to two million by 2051, making finding a treatment all the more important. Prevention could be key, as there is currently no cure for dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and affects some 62 per cent of those diagnosed with the condition.