When it comes to improving senior citizens' memories, it seems that an apple a day may have to take a back seat to a French maritime pine tree extract called Pyconogenol.
Researchers at the Centre for Neuropsychology at Swinburne University, Melbourne Australia, found that the extract improved both numerical working memory as well as spatial working memory in older adults.
The finding, said lead research Dr. Con Stough, supports other studies that have shown that antioxidants may have an effect in preserving or enhancing specific mental functions.
"These results support research from a range of disciplines that suggest that antioxidants may have an effect in preserving or enhancing specific mental functions. Cognitive research in this area specifically indicates that the putative benefits associated with antioxidant supplementation are associated with memory," he said.
As a part of the study, researchers examined the effects of Pycnogenol on a range of cognitive and biochemical measures in 101 senior individuals aged 60-85 years old.
Volunteers were asked to take a daily dose of 150mg of Pycnogenol for a three-month treatment period, and were assessed every month.
The control and Pycnogenol groups were matched by age, sex, BMI, micronutrient intake and intelligence.
The cognitive tasks comprised measures of attention, working memory, episodic memory and psycho-motor performance.
After analysing blood samples, the researchers noted that in seniors taking Pycnogenol, a marker known as F2-isoprostanes significantly decreased. The same however was not seen with seniors in the control group,
F2-isoprostanes develop by oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids, which are present in particularly high quantities in nerve cell membranes.
Dr. Stough added: "The antioxidant Pycnogenol had beneficial cognitive and biochemical effects for elderly individuals. Participants in the Pycnogenol groups showed improvement relative to the controls with the effects becoming evident from the second to third months of the Pycnogenol treatment."
The research was presented last week at the Oxygen Club of California 2008 World Congress on Oxidants and Antioxidants in Biology in Santa Barbara, CA, and will be published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.