Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Luteolin: How Plants Can Make You Smarter

More and more we are finding out that the secret to a long - and more importantly healthy - life is to adopt a plant-based diet. No, this doesn't mean you have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but you should definitely try to base all of your meals around plant foods. This includes whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and quite obviously fruits and veggies. And to the long list of health benefits associated with loading up on your fruits and veggies, you can now include a boost in memory (and decreased memory loss).

This boost in brain health is thanks to a compound called luteolin (LOO-tee-oh-lin). Luteolin is an antioxidant, more specifically a flavinoid, which is known to prevent inflammation, help with carbohydrate metabolism and boost the immune system. Some dietary sources include celery, green pepper, thyme, perilla, chamomile tea, carrots, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and oregano.

A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition has found that luteolin was able to decrease age-related inflammation and swelling of the brain in animal models. It was found that with age, there is an increase in molecules in the brain called 'cytokines', which are messengers released by the body during a state of illness or inflammation. These cytokines kill neurons and result in chemical changes in the brain that ultimately lead to memory loss. In the study, luteolin was able to 'combat' the cytokines found in the brain and slow-off brain tissue degradation and memory loss. According to the researchers, "These data suggest that consuming a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health,".

So, if you're already enjoying a healthy diet, you have one more reason to smile as you chow down!