23 January 2006
New study finds consuming apple juice associated with brain health
"An apple a day" now has new meaning for those who want to maintain mental dexterity as they age. New research from the University of Massachusetts Lowell suggests that consuming apple juice may protect against cell damage that contributes to age-related memory loss, even in test animals that were not prone to developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. "This new study suggests that eating and drinking apples and apple juice, in conjunction with a balanced diet, can protect the brain from the effects of oxidative stress – and that we should eat such antioxidant-rich foods," notes lead researcher Thomas B. Shea, Ph.D., director of the University of Massachusetts Lowell's Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration Research, whose study was just published in the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Although more research is needed, Shea is excited about these brain health findings, which are encouraging for all individuals who are interested in staying mentally sharp as they age. Using a well-established animal protocol, Shea and his research colleagues assessed whether consumption of apple juice was protective against oxidative brain damage in aging mice, damage that can lead to memory loss. "These newer findings show that there is something in apples and apple juice that protects brain cells in normal aging, much like the protection we previously saw against Alzheimer-like symptoms," says Shea. The researchers evaluated adult and aged mice using a standard diet, a nutrient-deficient diet, and a nutrient-deficient diet supplemented with apple juice concentrate in drinking water. Although the adult mice tested were not affected negatively by the deficient diets, the aged mice were, which is consistent with normal aging due to oxidative neurodegeneration. The effect on cognition among the aged mice was measured through well-established maze tests, followed by an examination of brain tissue. However, the aged mice who consumed the diets supplemented with apple juice performed significantly better on the maze tests and all had less oxidative brain damage than those on the standard diet. Supplementation by apple juice fully protected the aged mice from the oxidative stress caused by the nutrient-deficient diet. In addition, stronger mental acuity resulted when the aged mice consumed the human equivalent of 2-3 cups of apple juice or approximately 2-4 apples per day. "We believe that this effect is due to the apple's naturally high level of antioxidants," states Shea. Previous research with his colleagues also determined that it is not the sugar and energy content of the apple juice, but the antioxidant attributes of apple juice that are responsible for the positive effects.