WASHINGTON, May 31 (UPI) -- A compound found in blueberries, tea, grapes and cocoa enhances memory in mice, which is increased further with exercise, says a U.S. study.
The compound, epicatechin, is one of a group of chemicals known as flavonols and has been shown previously to improve cardiovascular function in people and increase blood flow in the brain.
Flavonols are found in some chocolate. Henriette van Praag, of the Salk Institute, and colleagues both at Salk and Mars Inc. showed that the combination of exercise and a diet with epicatechin also promoted structural and functional changes in the dentate gyrus, a part of the brain involved in the formation of learning and memory.
The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that a diet rich in flavonols may help reduce the incidence or severity of neurodegenerative disease or cognitive disorders related to aging.
The researchers found that sedentary mice fed epicatechin showed enhanced memory, blood vessel growth and gene activity, but these benefits were even more evident in mice that also exercised.