Albion Monitor /News

Antioxidants Improve Memory, Study Shows

by Ron Faig

Combination of high doses of vitamin C and E with antioxidant show promise

The use of three antioxidants, which improved learning and memory in aging rats, may show promise in treating memory decline associated with aging and Alzheimer's Disease in humans.

In a recent issue of Brain Research, an international journal of neuroscience, a University of South Florida research team reports that daily treatment with the synthetic antioxidant "PBN," plus high doses of vitamin E and vitamin C can improve cognitive functions in aging rats.

"The two-month period of antioxidant treatment that preceded our cognitive testing in rats is roughly equivalent to humans taking the antioxidants for three years," says Gary Arendash, a researcher in the USF department of biology and the USF Institute on Aging.

"It is most encouraging that these effects on learning and memory were seen in rats that began receiving the treatment relatively late in aging -- at the human equivalent of 50-60 years of age.

Antioxidants are substances that eliminate or detoxify molecules -- known as free radicals -- that are believed to be involved in brain aging and degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"Although Alzheimer's disease strikes about 10 percent of individuals over 65 years of age, a much higher percentage of the elderly experience a less severe decline in memory called age-associated memory loss," says Arendash. "It is this larger group of the elderly who may benefit the most from long-term treatment because our study was done on normal aging rats."

Following two months of treatment, the animals were tested in a water maze, where they used visual cues to swim to an escape platform. Arendash says that normally aged rats are deficient in this task compared to young rats.

However, not only did the aged rats being treated with antioxidants learn the platform location at a faster rate than controls, they also remembered where the platform had been after it was removed from the pool.

Vitamin E and C doses were much higher in the study than those normally taken by humans. But Arendash says the key to the learning and memory improvements may be the PBN antioxidant. When the study was repeated using only PBN, cognitive improvements in several tasks were still found, as well as reduced free radical damage in the brain.

"PBN appears to act as a trap to detoxify many types of free radicals," says Arendash. "It enters the brain rapidly and has already been shown to be effective in limiting brain damage caused by concussions and blocked arteries in animals."

Arendash says additional studies will be necessary to comprehensively evaluate the cognition-enhancing effects of antioxidants and to determine which are the most effective.

"If science discovers how to effectively detoxify excess free radicals in the body over a long period of time, tremendous health rewards could follow."

Albion Monitor January 12, 1996 (

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