Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

The Summer Meeting of the Nutrition Society, University of Reading.4–6 July 2011,

70th Anniversary Conference on ‘From plough through practice to policy’

Postgraduate Symposium

Flavonoids as modulators of memory and learning: molecular interactions resulting in behavioural effects

Catarina Rendeiroa1a2, João D. T. Guerreiroa3, Claire M. Williamsa2 and Jeremy P. E. Spencera1 c1

a1 Molecular Nutrition Group, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK

a2 School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AL, UK

a3 Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre for Biological and Chemical Engineering, IST, Lisboa, Portugal

Abstract

There is considerable interest in the potential of a group of dietary-derived phytochemicals known as flavonoids in modulating neuronal function and thereby influencing memory, learning and cognitive function. The present review begins by detailing the molecular events that underlie the acquisition and consolidation of new memories in the brain in order to provide a critical background to understanding the impact of flavonoid-rich diets or pure flavonoids on memory. Data suggests that despite limited brain bioavailability, dietary supplementation with flavonoid-rich foods, such as blueberry, green tea and Ginkgo biloba lead to significant reversals of age-related deficits on spatial memory and learning. Furthermore, animal and cellular studies suggest that the mechanisms underpinning their ability to induce improvements in memory are linked to the potential of absorbed flavonoids and their metabolites to interact with and modulate critical signalling pathways, transcription factors and gene and/or protein expression which control memory and learning processes in the hippocampus; the brain structure where spatial learning occurs. Overall, current evidence suggests that human translation of these animal investigations are warranted, as are further studies, to better understand the precise cause-and-effect relationship between flavonoid intake and cognitive outputs.

(Online publication March 14 2012)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Professor Jeremy P. E. Spencer, fax +44 0118 931 0080, email: j.p.e.spencer@reading.ac.uk