Plant Compound in Carrots Boosts Brain Health
Credit: Tatiana Belova | Dreamstime

A plant compound found in carrots and olive oil helps reduce age-related inflammation in the brain and memory deficits, according to a new study conducted in mice.

The compound, called luteolin, is also found in peppers , celery, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile. The findings suggest eating a healthy diet potentially reduces age-related inflammation in the brain, resulting in better brain function, said researchers from the University of Illinois.

Normally, older mice have higher levels of inflammation in their brain do worse on memory tests than younger adult mice. The researchers found older mice on a luteolin-supplemented diet, however, did better on the learning and memory tasks than the older mice on the normal diet, and the levels of inflammation in their brains were similar to those of the younger mice.

In the study, adult mice (ages 3 to 6 months) and older mice (age 2 years) were fed a normal diet or a luteolin-supplemented diet for four weeks. Researchers tested their memory, and measured levels of inflammation in a brain region called the hippocampus, which is important to memory and spatial awareness.

During normal aging, immune cells in the brain tend to produce more inflammatory molecules, which contribute to memory problems. Luteolin stopps the release of these inflammatory molecules in the brain, researchers said.

Tests conducted with immune cells in lab dishes show exposure to luteolin wards off toxins that can kill neurons in the brain, the study said.

"When we provided the old mice luteolin in the diet, it reduced inflammation in the brain and, at the same time, restored working memory to what was seen in young cohorts," study researcher Rodney Johnson, a professor at the university, said in a statement.

The study was published today (Oct. 13) in the Journal of Nutrition.