Animals engineered to model the decline in cognitive function and memory that occurs naturally in humans had improved spatial and object recognition when supplemented with OPCs for five weeks, according to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Researchers from the University of Toyama in Japan and Pusan National University in South Korea report that OPCs were associated with an increase in the densities of axons, dendrites and synapses in the brains of the animals, compared to control animals.
While cognitive function is known to decline naturally as we age, accelerated decline is associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Currently, about 12 million people in the US plus the EU suffer from Alzheimer's, with some estimates predicting this figure will have tripled by 2050. The direct and indirect cost of Alzheimer care is over $100 bn (€ 81 bn) in the US alone. The direct cost of Alzheimer care in the UK was estimated at £15 bn (€ 22 bn).
The researchers used mice with an increased rate of senescence as a model for age-related deficits in learning and memory in humans. Animals, supplemented with OPCs for five weeks, were tested using a Morris water maze, object location and object recognition tests.
The results showed that OPC-consuming animals had “improved spatial and object recognition impairment”, wrote the researchers.
Further study revealed that the compounds conferred a neuroprotective role in the brains of the animals.
“Elucidating the relationship between memory impairment with ageing and [protein] signalling may provide new suggestions for protection against memory deficit in the ageing brain,” reported the researchers.
Interest in brain health
Such is the interest in dietary approaches to improve brain health the world's largest food company, Nestlé, recently signalled its intention to get a head start on the competition with the signing of an agreement in November 2006 with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) to investigate the role of nutrition in cognitive function.
The agreement with the EPFL, Nestlé's largest collaboration with a university of research institute, will see the company contributing up to CHF 5 million (€ 3.1 million) every year for five years, with a review after four years to potentially extend the project further.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1017/S0007114509992005
“Oligomeric proanthocyanidins improve memory and enhance phosphorylation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 in senescence-accelerated mouse prone/8”
Authors: Y.A. Lee, E.J. Cho, T. Yokozawa