August 4, 2006

Apple juice prevents decline in acetylcholine levels in animal model

A report published in the August, 2006 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease revealed that giving apple juice to mice bred to develop Alzheimer's-like symptoms prevented the decrease in acetylcholine that occurs when the animals are provided with a vitamin deficient, oxidative stress-promoting diet. Acetylcholine is a hormone that facilitates the transmission of signals between nerve cells. The age-related decline in acetylcholine is believed to contribute to memory and learning disorders among older individuals.

Researchers led by Thomas Shea, PhD, who is the director of University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration Research, used mice lacking the ApoE gene as a model of oxidative stress. Previous research by the team revealed that supplementing these mice with apple juice concentrate protects against the oxidative damage and cognitive decline that results from a nutrient deficient and oxidative stress-promoting diet. Groups of adult and aged mice were divided to receive a standard diet, a diet deficient in folate and vitamin E (with added iron as a pro-oxidant), or the deficient diet supplemented with apple juice concentrate for one month.

Assay of acetylcholine levels in the brain's frontal cortex and hippocampus found a decline in acetylcholine among mice on the deficient diet which was prevented in the mice supplemented with apple juice concentrate. The animals who received apple juice also demonstrated better performance on maze tests used to evaluate memory and learning.

"The findings of the present study show that consumption of antioxidant-rich foods such as apples and apple juice can help reduce problems associated with memory loss," Dr Shea concluded. "We anticipate that the day may come when foods like apples, apple juice and other apple products are recommended along with the most popular Alzheimer's medications."