Pomegranate seed oil boosts brain function in mild cognitive impairment study

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In a recently published study, Dr Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers investigated the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) outcomes of a pomegranate seed oil (PSO) intervention. The study divided 80 participants into cases (PSO + Mediterranean diet [MeDi]) and controls (MeDi only), all subjected to a comprehensive set of neurological assessments one year after their respective interventions. Study results revealed that participants taking PSO exhibited significantly better global cognition, memory, information processing, and executive function than their medi-only counterparts. These results highlight the use of PSO by people with MCI due to its safety, ease of availability, and cost-effectiveness compared to synthetic pharmaceutical interventions.

Study: Effect of pomegranate seed oil on mild cognitive impairment.  Image credit: Team UR/ShutterstockStudy: Effects of pomegranate seed oil on mild cognitive impairment. Image credit: Team UR/Shutterstock

Pomegranate – an undiscovered natural food with untapped modern medical potential

‘Pomegranate’ (Punica granatum) is the common name of a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub belonging to the family Lythraceae, subfamily Punicoideae. It is rich in polyphenols and fatty acids with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Unfortunately, modern research on the plant remains lacking, with only a few papers discussing its medical potential, all of which have investigated the benefits of pomegranate juice.

Worryingly, limited clinical evidence of pomegranate’s efficacy has been positive, particularly in neurological areas, with studies showing that regular consumption of pomegranate juice for 12 months significantly improved verbal memory performance compared to abstinence from the juice. Cellular studies using murine models have also revealed that pomegranate juice can prevent and even reverse neurotoxicity induced by aluminum chloride (AlCl3), resulting in improved body weight, learning, spatial memory and neurotransmitter outcomes. Surprisingly, these effects were also observed at low concentrations of pomegranate juice, evidence of its potent neuroprotective effects.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a period characterized by subtle memory loss and cognitive decline that does not interfere with daily functioning and is thus difficult to detect without specialized clinical evaluation. It precedes the much more significant cognitive loss associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and constitutes an important transition point at which the onset of dementia and AD may be delayed or accelerated. Despite intensive recent research expanding our understanding of these neurological conditions, highlighting prevention as the best way to combat these diseases, no cure has yet been discovered for the condition.

Oxidative stress has been identified as important in the pathology of many neurological and cognitive conditions. An increased adherence to suboptimal health behaviors, particularly diet (eg, the Western dietary pattern), is therefore implicated in the increasing global prevalence of AD. Science is increasingly turning to food and dietary patterns as potential preventive interventions against cognitive decline. The Mediterranean dietary pattern (MeDi) is one such intervention – characterized by a diet rich in mainly plant-based healthy fats and processed foods and low in red meat; It has been shown to significantly improve physical and cognitive parameters in preclinical trials.

Elucidating the effects of pomegranate seed oil (PSO), a potentially beneficial part of the plant rich in antioxidant-rich nutraceuticals (conjugated fatty acids such as linolenic acid), will allow a more preventive intervention to address and delay the onset of these. devastating disease. Unfortunately, no studies have yet explored the benefits of PSO in human models.

About the study

The aim of the current study is to evaluate the potential effect of PSO on age-related cognitive outcomes in people with clinically diagnosed MCI. The study cohort initially included 100 Greek participants with neurologist-certified MCI according to the MCI definition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V 2013). Unfortunately, 20 participants failed to complete the study during follow-up and were therefore removed from the analysis.

Data collection included demographic records (gender, age, education), blood collection, clinical examination, neuropsychological assessment, and laboratory imaging procedures conducted by neurologists of the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (GAADRD). Individuals with hearing impairment, visual impairment, and currently prescribed antipsychotic medication were excluded from the study. The remaining participants were divided into case (five drops of PSO + MeDi per day) and control cohort (MeDi only), 40 participants each.

The extracted blood was used for blood marker discovery and included assessment of Aβ, tau protein and phospho-tau protein, known biomarkers for brain damage. Baseline neuropsychological assessments were presented in two 2-hour-long sessions, repeated six and 12 months later to compare changes in cognitive performance within this time period and between groups. These assessments were selected to assess attention, memory (working and episodic), visuospatial, executive, and functional performance, and calculated using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-cog), Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), was done and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).

Memory, specifically, assessed using the Rivermead Behavioral Verbal Learning Test (for episodic memory), the Ray Auditorium Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT; for immediate and delayed recall), and the Ray-Osterieth Complex Figure Test (for visuospatial memory and executive memory). was done function).

“The Functional Cognitive Assessment Scale (FUCAS) was used to assess functioning of daily living. However, this test was only used to confirm that our patients had no problems with activities of daily living.”

Study findings and conclusions

Demographic data revealed that the mean age of the 80 included participants was 69.53 years and 60% were female. Comparison of demographic data between case and control cohorts did not show any statistically significant differences, allowing for between-group comparisons.

Five drops of PSO taken with MeDi over a year was found to significantly protect against cognitive decline and, in some cases, even improve cognitive performance in case-cohorts. In contrast, the control cohort (MeDi only) showed no change from baseline or cognitive decline over the same period, highlighting the neurological benefits of PSO.

PSO improved visuospatial ability, executive function, processing speed, learning, verbal episodic memory and, most importantly, world knowledge. ADAS-cog, TMT B, and RAVLT scores were found to be statistically improved compared to baseline values ​​in the case-cohort. Even more encouragingly – the MoCA represented the only exception, with all neurological parameters measured showing improvements compared to baseline, although these were not statistically significant. This highlights the role of PSO in protecting against cognitive impairment and improving some neurological parameters, thereby reversing MCI.

In contrast, with FUCAS being the only exception, all neurological parameters measured in the control cohort demonstrated a decrease in mean scores over the 12-month period. FUCAS results were consistent between both cohorts and were indistinguishable from baseline measures. This is, however, to be expected because the cognitive deficits of MCI do not usually interfere with daily activities.

“In conclusion, due to the absence of clinical trials regarding the effects of PSO on cognition in patients with MCI or other cognitive disorders, the aim of the present study was to identify the potential benefits of PSO in MCI. After one year of treatment, it was demonstrated that PSO may be beneficial for people with People with MCI improve various domains of cognition. Therefore, the innovation of the current study is that these findings can expand research in this area and encourage the use of PSO in a holistic approach. Even MCI stages are helpful and lead to dementia prevention.”

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