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Food chemical boosts memory

A natural chemical found in grapes, blueberries, tea and cocoa enhances the memory of mice, research suggests.

Scientists hope that further research will investigate whether epicatechin exerts the same effect in humans.

"This finding is an important advance because it identifies a single natural chemical with memory-enhancing effects, suggesting that it may be possible to optimize brain function by combining exercise and dietary supplementation," says Mark Mattson at the National Institute on Aging.

Epicatechin belongs to a group of chemicals known as flavanols and also has cardiovascular benefits.  

A US study showed that when mice exercise and eat a diet rich in epicatechin, structural and functional changes occur in their brain regions responsible for learning and memory.

The epicatchin and exercise combination also decreased the activity of mouse genes that play a role in neurodegeneration.

Study author Henriette van Praag from the Salk Insitute in the USA said: "A logical next step will be to study the effects of epicatechin on memory and brain blood flow in aged animals and then humans."

Journal of Neuroscience