CHAMPAIGN, lll. A diet rich in the plant compound luteolin reduces age-related inflammation in the brain and related memory deficits by directly inhibiting the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain, researchers report.
Luteolin (LOOT-ee-oh-lin) is found in many plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile.
The new study, which examined the effects of dietary luteolin in a mouse model of aging, appears in the Journal of Nutrition.
The researchers focused on microglial cells, specialized immune cells that reside in the brain and spinal cord. Infections stimulate microglia to produce signaling molecules, called cytokines, which spur a cascade of chemical changes in the brain. Some of these signaling molecules, the inflammatory cytokines, induce "sickness behavior": the sleepiness, loss of appetite, memory deficits and depressive behaviors that often accompany illness.
Inflammation in the brain also appears to be a key contributor to age-related memory problems, said University of Illinois animal sciences professor Rodney Johnson, who led the new study. Johnson directs the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Illinois.
"We found previously that during normal aging, microglial cells become dysregulated and begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines," he said.
"We think this contributes to cognitive aging and is a predisposing factor for the development of neurodegenerative diseases."
Johnson has spent nearly a decade studying the anti-inflammatory properties of nutrients and various bioactive plant compounds, including luteolin. Previous studies by Johnson's lab and others have shown that luteolin has anti-inflammatory effects in the body. This is the first study to suggest, however
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign