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Spearmint Extract Improves Memory

6/19/2018 2:06:54 PM
Working memory refers to the ability to use and manipulate information stored within short-term memory. Evidence suggests that working memory declines with age, beginning in early adulthood. Working memory is a hippocampal-dependent task, leading researchers to explore therapies that protect or support the hippocampus. Some polyphenols found in plants of the Lamiaceae (mint) family have demonstrated such neuroprotective effects. Rosmarinic acid, found in spearmint (Mentha spicata), has antioxidant effects in hippocampal neurons and tissue.
Plant scientists at Kemin Foods in Des Moine, Iowa, have used traditional breeding techniques to produce spearmint lines with significantly higher levels of bioactive polyphenols than typical spearmint. The water-extracted dry proprietary spearmint (M. spicata aerial parts) contains more than 50 polyphenolic compounds, including a minimum of 24% total polyphenols and 14.5% rosmarinic acid. The spearmint extract has been shown to reduce oxidative damage in the mouse hippocampus and improve cognitive performance in an open-label human clinical trial. The current study was the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of this dried, aqueous spearmint extract.
The trial included 90 healthy adults (aged 50-70 years) with age-associated memory impairment (a nonpathological condition). Subjects were randomized to take placebo or spearmint extract at a daily dosage of 600 mg or 900 mg for 90 days. Outcome measures included cognitive function (measured by the computerized Cognitive Drug Research System), mood (measured by the Profile of Mood States), and sleep (measured by the Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire).
Results showed an overall treatment effect in quality of working memory and significantly improved scores in subjects consuming 900 mg per day when compared with those consuming 600 mg or placebo. Improvement in the quality of working memory was 22% in the 900-mg group, 5% in the 600-mg group, and 7% in the placebo group. There was also an overall treatment effect in spatial working memory, with significantly greater improvements in the 900-mg group. Subjects in the 900-mg group also reported improvements in the ability to fall asleep and improvements in subjective mood, including vigor activity and total mood disturbance.
As the population of older adults grows, more people are interested in ways to improve their cognition and reduce the risk of age-associated cognitive decline. This study shows that a spearmint extract containing a high percentage of rosmarinic acid improves working memory in adults with age-associated memory impairment. The finding is specific to the proprietary spearmint extract studied and cannot be generalized to other spearmint extracts that contain a smaller percentage of polyphenolic compounds.
Herrlinger KA, Nieman KM, Sanoshy KD et al. Spearmint Extract Improves Working Memory in Men and Women with Age-Associated Memory Impairment. J Altern Complement Med. 2018; 24: 37-47.