Everyone wants to stave-off the cognitive decline that is routinely experienced as we age. What if that decline wasn’t inevitable? As a recent study shows, there is a simple, inexpensive food that not only supports cognitive functions as we age, it can help restore brain function impaired during stroke
To a person concerned with the health of plants, polyphenols are endogenous biomolecules that protect the plant against UV radiation and pathogens. What if your concern is optimizing your own health and longevity, and improving the well-being of those you love? You will want to know about polyphenols, too.
If you’ve already heard of polyphenols, it’s likely due to their well-known and powerful antioxidant benefits when consumed as part of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. You may have encountered claims about the high polyphenol concentrations in red wine, coffee, and even dark chocolate, touted as a reason to indulge without guilt. Arguably, polyphenols are the most potent phytochemicals we can derive from plants, imparting their antioxidant and antiinflammatory protections at the cellular level, thus fortifying the body holistically – literally, in every cell of your body!
Foods that are richly hued usually have high polyphenol counts – think grapes, berries, exotic spices – all deeply flavored and pigmented, thanks to the action of phenolic compounds. Polyphenols are also associated with bitter and astringent tastes found in foods such as coffee, tea, and certain tree fruits, like olives and pomegranates.
Polyphenols have been the subject of considerable research in the last decade, as scientists try to zero-in on a magic bullet for health and longevity. According to meta-analysis of research on polyphenols from the last quarter-century, “Long-term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative diseases.” The antioxidant effects of polyphenols can be viewed as a blanket of protection against cellular degeneration – a benefit that greatly appeals to anti-aging proponents.
When it comes to turning back the biological clock, many of us want to preserve (or restore) a sharp, vital mind. As it relates to aging, cognitive decline is one of the most feared consequences – and, one of the most preventable. Regular exercise, an engaged social life, and a diet rich in polyphenols have demonstrated the individual as well as combined effects of staving off, and even reversing cognitive decline.
In the first quarter of 2018, a group of researchers from Brown University and Loma Linda University published results from a clinical trial investigating effects on brain health of supplementation with pomegranate polyphenols. Researchers focused specifically on cognition and functional recovery of patients who had suffered a stroke within the previous 2-week period. Using a commercially-available supplement consisting of 1 gram polyphenols (equivalent to 8 ounces of juice) derived from whole pomegranate, adult inpatients were given one pill, twice per day for a period of one week. Subjects in the control group were given a similar placebo pill made from lactose. All participants were closely monitored in a comprehensive rehabilitation setting. A standard test was performed throughout the rehabilitation period to gauge changes in cognitive and functional ability. Functional independence scores were also assessed.
Results were clear and encouraging: pomegranate-treated subjects demonstrated greater improvements in both brain function and functional skills recovery, as compared to the group given placebos. And that’s not all – the subjects supplementing with pomegranate spent less time in the hospital than patients in the control group. In short, adding a simple pomegranate supplement to their diet helped them recover more, and faster – truly delicious outcomes!
If you are a regular GreenMedInfo reader, this will come as no surprise. Back in 2013, we reported on a series of studies spotlighting the brain-boosting effects of pomegranates. In a study focusing on the average brain-fog victim, 32 middle-aged subjects with self-reported memory complaints were randomly assigned to drink 8 ounces of pomegranate juice, or a flavor-matched placebo drink for a period of 4 weeks. Participants underwent memory testing, functional MRI scans, and blood draws for specific biomarkers, before and after the study.
After 4 weeks, the results were clear: if you want to preserve your memory, drink pomegranate juice! Pomegranate juice drinkers showed significant improvement in both memory scores and plasma antioxidant levels, demonstrating enhanced blood quality. The pomegranate group also showed increased functional MRI activity during verbal and memory tasks, indicating increased blood flow to critical brain regions related to speech and memory. None of these benefits were demonstrated by subjects in the placebo group. These improvements to both blood flow and quality are echoed in this report on pomegranates ability to prevent and reverse damaging arterial blockages.
 Beckman CH. Phenolic-storing cells: keys to programmed cell death and periderm formation in wilt disease resistance and in general defence responses in plants? Physiol. Mol. Plant Pathol. 2000;57:101–110.
 Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Kanti Bhooshan Pandey and Syed Ibrahim Rizvi. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009 Nov-Dec; 2(5): 270–278. doi: 10.4161/oxim.2.5.9498
 John A. Bellone, Jeffrey R. Murray, Paolo Jorge, Travis G. Fogel, Mary Kim, Desiree R. Wallace & Richard E. Hartman (2018) Pomegranate supplementation improves cognitive and functional recovery following ischemic stroke: A randomized trial, Nutritional Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2018.1436413