An Apple a Day for AD?
Antioxidants in Apples May Help Memory and Fight Alzheimer's Disease
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 4, 2006 -- An apple (or two) a day may help keep Alzheimer's away --
and fight the effects of agingaging on the brain.
A new study shows drinking apple juice may improve memory by preventing the
decline of an essential neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals released by nerve cells to transmit messages
to other nerve cells. They are critical for good memory and brain health.
Previous studies have shown that increasing the amount of acetylcholine in
the brain can slow the mental decline found in people with Alzheimer's
"The findings of the present study show that consumption of
antioxidant-rich foods such as apples and apple juice can help reduce problems
associated with memory loss," says researcher Thomas Shea, PhD, director of
the Center for Cellular Neurobiology & Neurodegeneration Research at the
University of Massachusetts Lowell, in a news release.
Prior research has shown that supplementing animal diets with other
antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, spinach, and
strawberries, can help slow age-related mental decline better than using
dietary supplements containing purified forms of antioxidants.
Apples for Alzheimer's?
In the study, researchers compared normal adult mice, normal "aged"
mice, and special mice that were a genetic model for human Alzheimer's.
The mice were given either a normal diet, or a diet lacking in essential
nutrients, for one month. Some of the mice on the nutrient-poor diet were also
given apple juice concentrate mixed in their water.
The results showed that normal adult mice and the genetically-engineered
mice on normal diets had the same acetylcholine levels.
In fact, the normal adults had the same acetylcholine levels regardless of
However, the genetically engineered mice on the nutrient-poor diet had lower
acetylcholine levels. But this drop was prevented in those given apple
In the aged mice on a normal diet, acetylcholine levels were lower than in
the normal adult mice; and their levels were even lower if placed on the
nutrient-poor diet. But, again, this decline was prevented by the addition of
apple juice to drink.
The mice were also put through maze memory tests. "It was surprising how
the animals on the apple-enhanced diets actually did a superior job on the maze
tests than those not on the supplemented diet," says Shea.
The amount of apple juice the mice drank was comparable to drinking about
two 8-ounce glasses of apple juice or eating two to three apples a day for
Human studies looking at apple consumption are coming in the future.
The study was funded by an unrestricted grant from the U.S. Apple
Association and the Apple Products Research & Education Council.