Natural Compound Xanthohumol Boosts Cognitive Function in Young Animals

First Posted: Sep 23, 2014 03:48 AM EDT

A team of researchers has discovered that the natural compound - Xanthohumol - helps boost the cognitive function only in young mice.

Xanthohumol is a type of flavonoid that is found in hops and beer. In plants, flavonoids often give them their color. Due to its nutritional benefits that range from lowering the risk of cancer, inflammation or cardiovascular disease, flavonoids have grabbed the attention of the health experts.

Of all the flavonoids, Xanthohumol has been greatly studied as it promises to treat metabolic syndrome - a condition tied to obesity, high blood pressure and other concerns including age-related deficits in the memory. The compound has also helped lower the body weight and blood sugar in animal studies.

In the latest study, conducted on mice, researchers at the Oregon State University found that Xanthohumol helped improve cognitive function in just young mice and not in older ones. This study is a step forward towards understanding and lowering the degradation of memory that occurs with age in most mammals including humans.

Led by scientists from the Linus Pauling Institute and College of Veterinary Medicine at OSU, the new study looked at the use of Xanthohumol in high dose. They noticed that this compound increased the young animal's ability to adapt to the changes in the environment. Using a specially designed maze, the researchers tested this cognitive flexibility.

"Our goal was to determine whether xanthohumol could affect a process we call palmitoylation, which is a normal biological process but in older animals may become harmful," said Daniel Zamzow, a former OSU doctoral student. "Xanthohumol can speed the metabolism, reduce fatty acids in the liver and, at least with young mice, appeared to improve their cognitive flexibility, or higher level thinking. Unfortunately it did not reduce palmitoylation in older mice, or improve their learning or cognitive performance, at least in the amounts of the compound we gave them."

The researchers highlight that Xanthohumol used in this study was only possible with the use of supplements. The normal dietary source is through hops - that is used in the making of beer. In this study, the researchers basically looked at two subunits of the NMDA receptor: GluN1 and GluN23. As their levels drop with age, the ability to form or recall memories quickly drops too. 

The finding appears in Behavioral Brain Research.

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