Previous studies have demonstrated that flavonoids have positive effects on memory and learning. Flavonoids are known to be powerful antioxidants preventing cell damage. Many of them also have antimicrobial properties such as sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme. These are common herbs found in your garden or kitchen. Other foods high in flavonoids also include onions, lettuces, garlic, cranberry, kale, asparagus, lima and kidney beans.
Flavonoids are actually the plant pigment responsible for the color in flowers, fruits, and leaves. A chemical in many herbs called “apigenin” was found to specifically strengthen brain cells important for brain function, memory, and learning. A new study was conducted to test flavonoids directly on human cells and look at the mechanism behind this association. Researchers applied apigenin to human stem cells. After 25 days, the stem cels changed into neurons; a process only possible with apignenin! Researchers found that these new neurons were also stronger and more sophisticated than untreated neurons.
We know that strong neuron connections are critical for good brain function, memory and learning. This may lead to the development of new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson disease and Alzheimer disease. In the meantime, since these foods are redly available to us everyday, choosing a diet rich in flavonoids may influence the formation of new, more resilient neurons and the way they communicate in the brain.
Reference: Souza CS, et al. Commitment of human pluripotent stem cells to a neural lineage is induced by the pro-estrogenic flavonoid apignenin. Adv Regenerative Biology. 2015; 2: 29244.