New study reveals that a well-known Japanese spice can improve cognitive function in seniors

A new study reveals the benefits of wasabi. Source: Getty Images.

The results of a new study examining the effect of a well-known Japanese spice are in and it’s good news for people aged 60 and over.

The new study recently published in the Nutrients journal looked closely at the effects of wasabi, a Japanese spice containing 6-MSITC and known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, on the cognitive function of healthy adults 60 years and over.

Cognitive decline is a natural part of ageing and much research has been done to understand more about why it happens and how to slow it down.

Nutrition is known to be one of the major influencing factors on the condition and specific diets such as the Mediterranean diet, consisting largely of fresh fruit and vegetables, are known to improve memory function and cognition significantly.

Various studies have already shown that anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds positively impact older adults’ cognitive performances and so it was decided that the benefits of wasabi should be further explored.

What did the new study entail? 

The new study supposed that the wasabi intake would improve working (short term memory) and episodic memory (life memories), inhibition performances and processing speeds in older adults.

It was set up so that the testers and the participants were unaware of what was being tested, and the researchers, testers, and participants were blinded to the intervention.

Those taking part were between 60 and 80 years old, with no history of diabetes, mental disorders, cardiac disease, or cranial nerve disease. They were also not allowed to be on medications that could interfere with their cognitive functioning and heavy drinkers were also excluded.

The selected participants were on average mainly 65 year-old females and were randomly assigned to the 6-MSITC or placebo group.

The intervention supplement was administered once a day at bedtime for 12 weeks and all participants recorded their intake to verify adherence to the test.

The wasabi tablet contained 100 milligrams of wasabi extract which has 0,8 milligrams of 6-MSITC

What did the results show?

The study’s results showed that the wasabi group showed notably better episodic and working memory performances than the placebo group.

Similarly, verbal episodic memory performance in associating names and faces also improved but there were no other remarkable improvements in the other cognitive areas.

The researchers noted that potential ways in which 6-MSITC could improve episodic and working memory included reducing inflammation and oxidant levels in the hippocampus, the area of the brain which is vital in memory functions.

They also noted that the decrease in oxidant and inflammatory levels could also improve other brain functions such as neural plasticity, the ability of the brain to change through growth and reorganisation.

Along with fresh ginger, wasabi is normally served up alongside sushi and delivers a spicy nasal effect which complements the delicious Japanese dish perfectly. It is actually a botanical spice that comes from the rhizome of the wasabia japonica plant.

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