Friday, January 29, 2010

Anthocyanins and Memory

by Richard Crews
Fifty years ago a dear friend who was an undergraduate at Georgetown University rhapsodized about the colorful autumn foliage by saying, "Oh, just look at those beautiful carotenoids, xanthophylls, and anthocyanins!" Yes, those are (respectively) the orange, yellow, and red pigments of the fall pallet.

This week anthocyanins broke into my awareness again. A small study has demonstrated that seniors are less forgetful if they have a couple of glasses of blueberry juice a day.


This is evidently because of the antioxidant effects of the anthocyanin pigments in the blueberries. In fact, other experiments show that the pigments actually turn up on microscopic examination of mouse brains in key memory locations.

Anthocyanins are the most common red and blue colors of growing things--of fruits and vegetables, flowers and trees. They are particularly high in chokeberries, purple corn, black raspberries, wild blueberries, red grapes, and eggplant.

A few weeks ago in response to a large, double-blind, controlled study I ceremoniously removed Gingko biloba from my morning nutrient array. Apparently--all the cross-cultural hype notwithstanding--Gingko does not improve memory functions. But now there is a bottle of blueberry juice in my fridge.