Oat extract may improve cognitive function and memory: Study

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Neuravena has potential as an ingredient that can effectively aid and improve cognitive function Image credit: iStock.com
Neuravena has potential as an ingredient that can effectively aid and improve cognitive function Image credit: iStock.com

Related tags: Cognitive function, Caffeine

A wild green-oat extract has demonstrated cognitive function improvement in middle-aged adults, who exhibited increased speed of performance and episodic memory in a clinical study. 

The ingredient, extracted from an ancient type of wild oats (Avena sativa​), was developed by Frutarom and is being marketed under the name Neuravena.

Although further studies are needed, the results suggest that Neuravena has potential as a novel food ingredient that could aid cognitive function and even substitute everyday stimulants such as caffeine.

“Neuravena enhances attention and concentration but without typical side effects such as insomnia, nervousness, anxiety associated with consumption of high dose of caffeine,”​ Yannich Capelle, product technical manager for health at Frutarom, told us.

In collaboration with researchers from Frutarom, lead scientist Dr David O. Kennedy from the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University, took 45 participants aged 40–65 years and gave them a each single dose of one of the three treatments: placebo or 800 or 1600 mg of the green-oat extract (GOE).

Study details

The placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomised cross-over study assessed cognitive function with a range of computerised tasks measuring attention, spatial, working, episodic memory and executive function pre-dose and at one, two and a half, four and six hours post-dose.

The results showed that 800 mg of GOE increased the speed of performance of a delayed word recall task in terms of errors and decreased thinking time and overall completion time of a functional task (Peg and Ball). Working memory span (Corsi blocks) was also increased, but only on the second occasion this dose was taken. 

While cognitive improvements were observed most notably at the 800 mg dose, researchers acknowledged that future research might be useful to investigate the same or lower doses of GOE and whether the beneficial effects increase over a longer time period.

Capelle said Neuravena clearly demonstrated an improvement of executive function and memory and had a different mode of action to caffeine.

“While caffeine works mainly through adenosine receptors, Neuravena selectively acts upon MAO-B and PDE-4 enzymes. Nonselective activity on PDEs is known for caffeine however there is no neurotransmitter interaction,”​ he added.

Mechanism of action

Optimized-photo oat 2 Neuravena
The ingredient, extracted from an ancient type of wild oats (Avena sativa). (image: Frutarom)

Neuravena’s mechanism of action acts on the enzymes MAO-B and PDE 4, which are closely connected to cognitive physiology. Neuravena has been shown to inhibit these enzymes in vitro, suggesting a positive effect on mental health.

MAO B is involved in the metabolism of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, in the brain important for the regulation of mental and cognitive function. Inhibitors of MAOB are used for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.

“The inhibition of MAO-B is associated with stimulant, mood enhancing and potentially neuroprotective properties,”​ said Capelle.

“PDE 4, by contrast, is responsible for the degradation of cAMP, a messenger involved in transferring the effects of neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline. PDE 4 inhibitors increase cAMP levels in the brain, acting as signal enhancer.”

Neuravena has already shown efficacy in a previous study that demonstrated an improvement in vasodilator function in systemic and cerebral arteries, suggesting a potential role in the maintenance of cardiovascular health.

Source: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

Published: doi/10.1080/1028415X.2015.1101304

“Acute effects of a wild green-oat (Avena sativa) extract on cognitive function in middle-aged adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects trial.”

Authors: David O. Kennedy; Philippa A. Jackson; Joanne Forster; Julie Khan; Torsten Grothe; Tania Perrinjaquet-Moccetti; Crystal F. Haskell-Ramsay.

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