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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Boston, Massachusetts » Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320901

Research Project: Nutrition, Brain, and Aging

Location: Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging

Title: Tart cherry supplementation improves working memory, hippocampal inflammation and autophagy in aged rats

Author
item Thangthaeng, Nopporn
item Poulose, Shibu - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University
item Gomes, Stacey - University Of Cincinnati
item Miller, Marshall
item Bielinski, Donna - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University
item Shukitt-hale, Barbara

Submitted to: Age
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/9/2016
Publication Date: 8/30/2016
Citation: Thangthaeng, N., Poulose, S., Gomes, S.M., Miller, M.G., Bielinski, D., Shukitt Hale, B. 2016. Tart cherry supplementation improves working memory, hippocampal inflammation and autophagy in aged rats. Age. 38:393-404. doi: 10.1007/s11357-016-9945-7.

Interpretive Summary: High consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with reduced risk of debilitating diseases and improved cognition in aged populations, and these effects have been attributed to the antioxidant/anti-inflammation properties of certain naturally occurring chemicals found in fruits and vegetables. Tart cherries contain a variety of potentially beneficial chemicals; however, little research had been done to investigate the effects of tart cherry on the aging brain. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if tart cherry supplementation can improve cognitive and motion-related function of aged rats via modulation of inflammation and clearance of toxic molecules in the brain. Thirty aged rats received either a normal diet or a diet supplemented with 2% tart cherry. After 6 weeks on the diet, rats were given a series of behavioral tests to assess for strength, stamina, balance, coordination, learning and memory. Although no significant effects were observed on tests of motion- related performance, tart cherry improved memory of aged rats. Following behavioral testing, the brain was analyzed biochemically for molecular markers of inflammation and clearance of toxic molecules. Tart cherry supplementation significantly reduced inflammatory markers and improved clearance of toxic molecules. Daily consumption of tart cherry reduced age-associated inflammation and promoted stable, molecular/cellular function in the brain, along with improvements in memory. Therefore, addition of tart cherry to the diet may promote healthy aging and/or delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease.

Technical Abstract: High consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with reduced risk of debilitating diseases and improved cognition in aged populations. These beneficial effects have been attributed to the antioxidant/anti-inflammation properties of phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. Tart cherries contain a variety of potentially beneficial phytochemicals; however, little research had been done to investigate the effects of tart cherry on the aging brain. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if tart cherry supplementation can improve cognitive and motor function of aged rats via modulation of inflammation and autophagy in the brain. Thirty 19-month-old male Fischer 344 rats were weight-matched and assigned to receive either a control diet or a diet supplemented with 2% Montmorency tart cherry. After 6 weeks on the diet, rats were given a battery of behavioral tests to assess for strength, stamina, balance, coordination, learning and working memory. Although no significant effects were observed on tests of motor performance, tart cherry improved working memory of aged rats. Following behavioral testing, the hippocampus was collected for western/densitometry analysis of inflammatory (GFAP, NOX-2 and COX-2) and autophagy (phosphorylated mTOR, Beclin 1 and p62/SQSTM) markers. Tart cherry supplementation significantly reduced inflammatory markers and improved autophagy. Daily consumption of tart cherry reduced age-associated inflammation and promoted protein/cellular homeostasis in the hippocampus, along with improvements in working memory. Therefore, addition of tart cherry to the diet may promote healthy aging and/or delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease.