a1 Molecular Nutrition Group, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, University of Reading, Reading RG2 6AP, UK
a2 Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics, University of Reading, Reading RG2 6AP, UK
There is intense interest in the studies related to the potential of phytochemical-rich foods to prevent age-related neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. Recent evidence has indicated that a group of plant-derived compounds known as flavonoids may exert particularly powerful actions on mammalian cognition and may reverse age-related declines in memory and learning. In particular, evidence suggests that foods rich in three specific flavonoid sub-groups, the flavanols, anthocyanins and/or flavanones, possess the greatest potential to act on the cognitive processes. This review will highlight the evidence for the actions of such flavonoids, found most commonly in fruits, such as apples, berries and citrus, on cognitive behaviour and the underlying cellular architecture. Although the precise mechanisms by which these flavonoids act within the brain remain unresolved, the present review focuses on their ability to protect vulnerable neurons and enhance the function of existing neuronal structures, two processes known to be influenced by flavonoids and also known to underpin neuro-cognitive function. Most notably, we discuss their selective interactions with protein kinase and lipid kinase signalling cascades (i.e. phosphoinositide-3 kinase/Akt and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways), which regulate transcription factors and gene expression involved in both synaptic plasticity and cerebrovascular blood flow. Overall, the review attempts to provide an initial insight into the potential impact of regular flavonoid-rich fruit consumption on normal or abnormal deteriorations in cognitive performance.
(Received January 26 2010)
(Revised July 14 2010)
(Accepted July 20 2010)
Abbreviations: CBF, cerebral blood flow; DG, dentate gyrus