An apple a day keeps amnesia at bay

A study by researchers at University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) shows that apple juice prevents degradation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in rats, leading to a prevention of age-related memory loss. 

The study, to be published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, was led by Thomas Shea, head of UML’s Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration Research.

Adult and aged mice aged 9-12 months and 2-2 and-a-half years old, respectively, were given one of three different diets; one group was given a complete diet, another was given a folate- and vitamin E-deficient diet supplemented with iron (a pro-oxidant), and a third group was given a complete diet supplemented with apple juice concentrate added to drinking water. 

Spectrophotometric analysis of combined frontal cortex and hippocampus tissue homogenate from each of the three groups showed that mice maintained on the deficient diets had significantly decreased acetylcholine levels, whereas mice maintained on the diet containing apple juice concentrate did not. Spectrophotometry is a measure of the amount of light absorbed by a sample; light absorption is affected by the molecules present in a sample, and their concentration, with each molecule absorbing a specific wavelength of light.  

Previous work by Shea’s group had shown that apple juice concentrate prevents oxidative damage and impaired maze performance in aged mice. In that study, rats were also given one of three different diets, and it is interesting that only older mice were affected by the deficient diet.

Medication given to Alzheimer’s patients inhibits cholinesterase enzymes, which break down actelycholine. In this study, the neuroprotective effect of apple juice concentrate is attributed to antioxidative properties.

Mice in the study were given moderate amounts of apple juice, comparable to a person drinking 16 fluid ounces of apple juice or eating 2-3 apples a day. “We anticipate that the day may come when foods like apples, apple juice and other apple products are recommended along with the most popular Alzheimer’s medications,” says Shea, who notes that clinical trials on humans to evaluate the effectiveness of apple juice in preventing age-related cognitive decline will begin soon.

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