Can Orange Juice Help to Ward Off Mental Decline?
According to a team of researchers at Reading University, orange juice could have the impressive ability to tackle the cognitive decline that often comes with ageing. Their research suggests that it can have a real positive impact on brain function in older people.
“The population is ageing rapidly across the world,” says study author Dr Daniel Lamport, of Reading school of psychology. “Estimates suggest that the number of persons aged 60 or over could triple by 2100. It’s therefore imperative that we explore simple, cost-effective ways to improve cognitive function in old age.”
The study included 37 healthy participants, all between the ages of 60 and 81. They were asked to drink 500ml (nearly a pint) of orange juice every day for eight weeks. Their memory, reaction time and verbal fluency were measured at both the beginning and end of the study so that changes could be monitored. These tests were used to create an overall score known as “global cognitive function”.
At the end of the experiment, the participants’ scores had improved by 8% – a significant amount for such a small space of time.
The researchers explain that orange juice is a major source of a group of naturally-occurring plant phytochemicals known as flavonoids, and this study is not the first to link flavonoids to improved memory. It is believed that flavonoids do this through the activation of signalling pathways in the hippocampus – a part of the brain that is associated with learning and storing information. However, the process is not yet fully understood.
“Small, easily administered changes to the daily diet, such as eating more flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables, have the potential to substantially benefit brain health,” says Dr Lamport. “We know that people find it difficult to sustain big changes to their diet, but simple alterations are much easier to maintain permanently.
“More research on the positive effects of flavonoids on cognition is needed. However, this is an important discovery which strengthens the growing body of evidence that flavonoid rich foodstuffs could play a big role in tackling cognition decline in old age.”
The team stress that they do not necessarily recommend drinking a pint of orange juice every day. Instead, the key piece of information to be taken from the study is that the constituents of orange juice could play an important role in providing brain-boosting nutrients, and that this should be explored further.