Saint Louis University researchers have found that antioxidant extracts from two herbs — spearmint and rosemary — appear to combat mild cognitive impairment and may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer's disease.
In new laboratory research involving mice, the scientists found a novel antioxidant-based ingredient made from spearmint and two different doses of a similar antioxidant made from rosemary extract helped improve memory and learning in the animals, and slowed age-related mental declines.
"We found that these proprietary compounds reduce deficits caused by mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer's disease," said Susan Farr, a geriatrics specialist at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
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"This probably means eating spearmint and rosemary is good for you. However, our experiments were in an animal model and I don't know how much — or if any amount — of these herbs people would have to consume for learning and memory to improve. In other words, I'm not suggesting that people chew more gum at this point."
The researchers found that the higher-dose rosemary extract compound was the most powerful in improving memory and learning in three tested behaviors. The lower dose rosemary extract improved memory in two of the behavioral tests, as did the compound made from spearmint extract, Farr said. In addition, there were signs of reduced oxidative stress, a hallmark of age-related decline, in the part of the brain that controls learning and memory.
"Our research suggests these extracts made from herbs might have beneficial effects on altering the course of age-associated cognitive decline," said Farr, who presented the findings at a meeting of the Society of Neuroscience this month. "It's worth additional study."
The research, which was supported by the VA Medical Center in St. Louis, was conducted in conjunction with Kemin Industries, which manufactures specialty ingredients for vitamin and dietary supplements.
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