Eating an apple is not an adequate substitute for exercise but it could have some of the same effects on the brain. That’s because researchers in Australia and Germany found in a laboratory setting with mice that natural compounds found in apples helped stimulate the production of new brain cells in a similar fashion to what happens when people exercise.
Researchers Tara Louise Walker from the University of Queensland in Australia and Gerd Kempermann from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases were encouraged by previous studies that showed phytonutrients from plants such as resveratrol from red grapes and epigallo-catechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea had positive impacts on different parts of the body, including the brain. They wanted to see how other substances may impact the brain as well.
Walker and Kempermann found high concentrations of phytonutrients from apples stimulated neurogenesis, which is the generation of new neurons in the brain and published their findings in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
The researchers conducted an experiment with laboratory-grown stem cells from adult mice brains and tested different compounds. They found when either quercetin or dihydroxybezoic acid (DHBA), phytonutrients found in apples, were added to the cultures the stem cells generated more neurons and were better protected from cell death.
Other tests in mice showed stem cells from areas of the brain associated with learning and memory multiplied and generated more neurons when given high doses of quercetin or DHBA. Researchers noted this reaction was comparable to what has been observed as a result of physical exercise, another known stimulus for neurogenesis.
Researchers believe this study signals natural compounds in apples and other fruits such as quercetin, DHBA and others in high concentrations may work together to promote brain health through the process of neurogenesis. They are hoping future studies could help determine if these and other phytonutrients may enhance learning and cognitive function in animal models and eventually humans.