Flavonoids are naturally occurring substances found in plants that have been shown to be beneficial to human health and brain function. They help us learn, remember and think more efficiently. And the news has just got better.
Neuroscientists in Brazil have found that a type of flavonoid called apigenin can help form new brain cells and even strengthen the connections between them. The really good news is that apigenin occurs naturally in several herbs and foodstuffs.
For a long time it was believed that the brain could not create new brain cells. Now we now know that new cell creation can occur in certain parts of the brain. This new research was carried out by the D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR) in Brazil. The researchers were studying stem cells in a petri dish. After applying apigenin, the stem cells changed into neurons. Not only that, the newly created brain cells formed strong connections between themselves!
“Strong connections between neurons are crucial for good brain function, memory consolidation and learning” – lead author Stevens Rehen
The neuroscientists speculate that the benefit is not constricted to petri dishes.
“[F]lavonoids are present at high amounts in some foods and we can speculate that a diet rich in flavonoids may influence the formation of neurons and the way they communicate within the brain” – lead author Stevens Rehen
The really exciting aspect of the research is the possibility that it may lead to treatment for diseases such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A symptom of all of these conditions is a decrease in brain volume. It should be stressed that this is only a possibility, so far it has only been shown in petri dishes. Adding more flavonoids to our diet is unlikely to hurt though.
So, assuming that we can benefit from our diet, how do we boost our brains with flavonoids? Well, as stated earlier, flavonoids occur in plants so a good start would be in upping plant food intake. Agenin itself is found in herbs like thyme and parsley, as well as chamomile and red pepper.
So why not add a bunch of thyme or a sprig of parsley to other brain food enriched dishes, and wash it all down with a calming cup of chamomile tea? Before you do, please note that some herbs may interact with prescribed drugs so always check with your doctor before embarking on any change of diet.