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Tea, Chocolate Chemical May Boost Memory

It may be possible to boost memory with a plant compound
called epicatechin, which is found in foods and drinks including blueberries,
grapes, tea, and cocoa.

That's according to a study published in The Journal of
Neuroscience
.

The researchers included Fred Gage, PhD, of the genetics lab at the Salk
Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.

In a series of lab tests, Gage's team studied epicatechin, which is a type
of antioxidant called a flavonol, in female mice.

Some of the mice drank or ate water or chow laced with epicatechin and ran
on a running wheel for two hours daily.

Other mice ran on a running
wheel but didn't get epicatechin. Another groupB of mice had no running
wheel and got no epicatechin in their food or water.

After six weeks, the researchers tried to train the mice to navigate a
watery maze. The mice were supposed to find a hidden platform in the maze
within 40 seconds.

The mice that consumed epicatechin did better at memorizing the maze than
the mice that got no epicatechin. The mice that consumed epicatechin and also
ran on their running wheels had the best results of all.

The findings suggest that epicatechin may help spatial memory, especially
when coupled with exercise, note Gage and colleagues.

Exactly how epicatechin does that isn't clear. But the researchers found
signs of blood vessel growth in the brains of the mice that consumed
epicatechin. Better blood flow to memory-related brain areas may have helped
the mice remember the maze.

One of the researchers works forB Mars Inc., which makes cocoa products
and supplied the study's epicatechin.B The study was funded by the Defense
Advanced Research Products Agency.

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By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
B)2005-2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved