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Strawberries are probably the most popular, healthy treats on the planet. Fresh or frozen, there’s no denying that these colourful little treats pack a healthy punch. Of all the well known health benefits the fruit has got to offer, scientists at the Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory in La Jolla have surprisingly unearthed yet another.

While many studies have gone on to provide evidence of the health promoting properties that plants have, more research has been a priority. A team of scientists led by Pamela Maher, a senior staff scientist at Salk’s, have discovered how a naturally occurring compound found in strawberries called fisetin reduces the mental effects of aging. The compound was found to help treat age-related mental decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s or stroke.

“Based on our ongoing work, we think fisetin might be helpful as a preventive for many age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, not just Alzheimer’s,” she said.

The work builds on the team’s previous research into the type of flavonol that has powerful antioxidant properties, fisetin, known to reduce memory loss related to Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

In the course of this investigation, they extended their studies to mice that exhibit a progressive, age-associated decline in brain function similar to human Alzheimer’s patients: the SAMP8 mouse.

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The researchers fed 3-month-old prematurely aging mice a daily dose of fisetin with their food for 7 months. While another group of the prematurely aging mice was fed the same food without fisetin. Also, during the period of the study, the mice were examined using various activities and memory tests. The team also analyzed levels of specific proteins related to brain function, as well as stress and inflammation.

The outcome of these tests exhibited how mice not treated with fisetin had difficulties with all the cognitive tests as well as elevated markers of stress and inflammation.

On the other hand, mice treated with fisetin were not noticeably different in behavior, cognitive ability or inflammatory markers at 10 months than a group of untreated 3-month-old mice with the same condition. In addition, fisetin was found to be safe even at high doses.

Since aging is an important risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s, the study’s authors would like to conduct future clinical trials assessing the antioxidant in humans.

“Companies have put fisetin into various health products but there hasn’t been enough serious testing of the compound,” says Maher. “Based on our ongoing work, we think fisetin might be helpful as a preventative for many age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, not just Alzheimer’s, and we’d like to encourage more rigorous study of it.”

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