Thursday, February 6, 2014

Supplement improves cognitive performance in older adults

Declines in the underlying brain skills needed to think, remember and learn are normal in aging. In fact, this cognitive decline is a fact of life for most older Americans.

Therapies to improve the cognitive health of older adults are critically important for lessening declines in mental performance as people age. While physical activity and cognitive training are among the efforts aimed at preventing or delaying cognitive decline, dietary modifications and supplements have recently generated considerable interest.

Now a University of South Florida (USF) study reports that a formula of nutrients high in antioxidants and other natural components helped boost the speed at which the brains of older adults processed information.

The USF-developed nutritional supplement, containing extracts from blueberries and green tea combined with vitamin D3 and amino acids, including carnosine, was tested by the USF researchers in a clinical trial enrolling 105 healthy adults, ages 65 to 85.

University of South Florida researchers Paula Bickford, PhD, and Brent Small, PhD, teamed up to investigate the effects of a USF-developed, antioxidant-rich nutritional supplement on the cognitive performance of older adults.

The two-month study evaluated the effects of the formula on the cognitive performance of these older adults, who had no diagnosed memory disorders.

Those randomized to the group of 52 volunteers receiving supplement demonstrated improvements in cognitive processing speed, while the 53 volunteers randomized to receive a placebo did not. Reduced cognitive processing speed, which can slow thinking and learning, has been associated with advancing age, the researchers said.

The study, conducted at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute, appears in the current issue of Rejuvenation Research (Vol. 17 No. 1, 2014). Participants from both groups took a battery of memory tests before and after the interventions.

“After two months, test results showed modest improvements in two measures of cognitive processing speed for those taking NT-020 compared to those taking placebo,” said Brent Small, PhD, a professor in USF’s School of Aging Studies. “Processing speed is most often affected early on in the course of cognitive aging. Successful performance in processing tasks often underlies more complex cognitive outcomes, such as memory and verbal ability.”

Blueberries, a major ingredient in the formula, are rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant containing a polyphenolic, or natural phenol substructure.

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