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Apples Can Keep You More Mentally Sharp

Buffalo News

10-06-10

It's not as if apples didn't have enough virtues. Sure, one a day keeps the doctor away. That's because they're rich in vitamin C and loaded with fiber, particularly pectin, a soluble fiber that not only promotes digestive health but lowers blood-cholesterol levels.

Increasingly, however, researchers are finding that apples have functional properties well beyond their nutritional value, and many of the goodies are in the juice as well as the flesh. But now comes evidence that apples can keep you mentally sharp as you age. They protect neurons from the cognitive decline that typically accompanies aging; improve nerve-cell communication; and can prevent, halt, and even reverse some signs of Alzheimer's disease.

It's not clear which apple components do what, but several antioxidants and flavonoids are likely active in multiple ways. Drinking two cups of apple juice a day may be the easiest way to save your brain.

*Free-Radical Slayer: One of the many ways apples and apple juice help the brain is by reducing the vulnerability of nerve cells to inflammation and oxidative stress during aging, which undermine cognitive performance. Researchers know that apples are effective as antioxidants in the brain because they have been found to reduce free radicals of oxygen in the central nervous system.

*Bad-Gene Killer: There's more to the neuroprotective effects of apples than taking out free radicals. Animal studies show that apple components suppress the expression of notoriously harmful genes that are active during the aging process. In adult mice, a diet supplemented with eight ounces of apple juice prevented an expected increase in the presenilin-1 gene known to promote early development of Alzheimer's disease.

*Juicing the Brain: One of the ways apples and apple juice probably impact cognition is by boosting levels of neurotransmitters. Mice fed a vitamin-poor diet known to reduce levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine did not experience a decline in the brain chemical if their drinking water was spiked with apple juice. Acetylcholine influences signals important to movement, sensory perception, and attention. The mice slurped the equivalent of eight ounces of juice a day.

*Vitamin Booster: Apple juice fed to diet-deficient mice both reduces generation of the neurotoxin beta-amyloid thought to cause Alzheimer's disease and reduces the toxicity of the harmful substance. Researchers found that consumption of apple juice totally reversed the effect of a vitamin-poor diet that is known to foster accumulation of the beta-amyloid toxin in brain tissue.

*The Newest Therapy: Among 21 people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease who each consumed 8 ounces of apple juice a day for a month, the behavioral and psychotic symptoms of the disease fell by 27 percent. Patients experienced reductions in anxiety levels, agitation, and delusional symptoms. The researchers see apple juice as useful adjunct therapy for the mood changes linked to the brain disorder.

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