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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: NEUROCOGNITION/NEUROSCIENCE

Location: Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging

Title: Functional role of walnuts and acai fruits on brain health

Authors
item Poulose, Shibu
item Shukitt-Hale, Barbara

Submitted to: American Chemical Society
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 4, 2012
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Citation: Poulose, S.M., Shukitt Hale, B. 2013. Functional role of walnuts and acai fruits on brain health. IN: Patil, B.S., Jayaprakasha, G.K., Roa, C.O., Mahattanatawee, K. Eds. Tropical and Subtropical Fruits. American Chemical Society Publications, Washington DC. p.171-187.

Technical Abstract: For survival and perpetuity, all plants, including fruit- or vegetable-bearing plants, synthesize an enormous number of secondary chemical compounds, widely known as phytochemicals. A plethora of research suggests that these phytochemicals extend a multitude of health benefits to humans, mainly through a combination of additive and/or synergistic effects derived from their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. On the other hand, aging is largely associated with increased oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, leading to a cascade of altered signaling and ultimately to the injury or death of neurons. These cascading effects mitigate neuronal communications, leading to deficits in memory, cognition, motor functions and often to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), Huntington’s Disease (HD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), prion disease, dementia and so on1 2. Apart from being debilitating in nature on the elderly, these diseases force an enormous economic burden on society. It has been generally concluded that the pathogenesis for most of the neurological diseases are multifactorial, resulting from a combination of aging, genetic predisposition, and exposure to one or more environmental agents including head trauma, low education level, viruses, and/or toxins, which directly or indirectly increase oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. Numerous studies from our laboratory and others have reported that feeding lab animals with diets rich in fruits or walnuts has improved the indices of memory, cognition and motor functions. These improvements were partly due to the effects of phytochemicals packed in these fruits, particularly berries, and walnuts in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. With such compounding evidences on the beneficial effects of polyphenolics, phytosterols, micronutrients and omega fatty acids, we review here the current knowledge of the phytochemical-rich Amazonian palm fruit (açaí) and walnuts in improving brain health.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014