Targeting cognitive decline with plant polyphenols

A proprietary blend of extracts from two polyphenol-rich fruits — grape and wild blueberry — has been clinically demonstrated to improve short-term memory and learning skills in healthy seniors

At last year’s SupplySide West exposition, Diana Food, a business unit in the nutrition division of Germany based Symrise and a world leader in dietary solutions derived from natural ingredients, introduced a proprietary blend of extracts made from two potent, polyphenol-rich fruits that has been clinically proven to prevent age-related cognitive decline in healthy older adults.

The bioavailability of the two components — extracts of grape and wild blueberry — was studied, with consistent results showing that this combination of ingredients increased the proportion of specific flavonoids that enter the blood circulation when introduced into the body, indicating the unique efficacy of the product (Cerebelle).

Both grape and wild blueberry extracts contain specific polyphenols that are known for their positive impact on cognition. More precisely, each of these extracts contributes specific polyphenols with neuroprotective properties.

According to Joyce Cascella, Consumer Health Category Manager at Diana Food: “A 6-month supplementation study with Cerebelle (600 mg/day) demonstrated improved episodic memory in healthy senior people. Cerebelle complements a broad variety of consumer products,” she adds, “ranging from traditional dietary supplements to functional foods and beverages.”

Primary cognitive decline is a normal, non-pathological impairment of intellectual functions that develops with age. Data from recent studies show the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment in the 70–75 years of age population to be between 15 and 20%. Existing preclinical studies demonstrate that grape polyphenols, as well as blueberry ones, can cross the brain–blood barrier after oral ingestion.

There is a full spectrum of evidence in the literature, including epidemiological studies, demonstrating the link between polyphenol consumption from different sources, including raw fruit, juice or polyphenolic extracts from berries and grapes, and cognitive improvement.

Based on this literature, a French-Canadian consortium was created, combining leading companies in the extraction of natural polyphenols and academic experts. The consortium joined forces to develop and market innovative natural products to support neurocognitive health. This research programme led to the development of Cerebelle, a synergistic and proprietary blend of polyphenols from grape and blueberry, supported by a full range of preclinical studies as well as a large-scale human intervention study.

Adding to the research bank

The clinical study, recently published in the Journals of Gerontology by researchers from the Canada-based Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF) and the University of Bordeaux, France, showed that Cerebelle improved the memory of healthy older adults.

Using a bicentric, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled model, 215 healthy subjects from 60 to 70 years of age received either a placebo or 600 mg/d of Cerebelle for 24 weeks. Subjects in both groups performed a series of cognitive tests, designed by CANTAB to assess visuospatial learning and episodic memory (Paired Associate Learning, PAL), verbal episodic and recognition memory (VRM) and working memory (SSP). Supplementation with Cerebelle improved VRM free recall across the whole cohort.

It was further noted that, within the subgroup with mild cognitive impairment at baseline, 6-month supplementation with Cerebelle showed an improvement in both PAL and VRM. “These results infer that Cerebelle improves verbal memory in healthy elderly people. The study also demonstrated that it improves visuospatial memory — or the ability to recall previous events, emotions and places — in healthy senior people with a lower level of memory performance,” commented Joyce.

“Several published studies have shown that low molecular-weight polyphenols can decrease the production of proinflammatory compounds in the brain,” she adds. “The preclinical work published on Cerebelle further demonstrated that its polyphenolic compounds stimulate the production of nerve growth factor in the brain with an increase in synaptic plasticity, leading to improved memory. These different pathways strengthen our understanding of the capability of Cerebelle to protect against the memory decline associated with ageing.”

Pushing forward

By 2055, every fifth consumer worldwide will be older than 65. According to 2014 statistics from the World Bank, Japan has more people aged 65 and older as a percentage of its total population than any other country in the world.

Several European countries, including Germany, Greece and Italy, are close behind with 20% of their residents aged 65 or older. Japan and China are the world leaders in terms of innovation in food, drinks and dietary supplements aimed specifically at seniors.

Diabetes, cardiovascular health, osteoporosis, cancers and neurodegenerative diseases appear to be main concerns for seniors. Yet, maintaining autonomy is critical to protecting their quality of life; vision, hearing and mobility are key functions that seniors want to preserve as long as possible. As such, these so-called late lifers represent a huge market for preventive healthcare and well-being products as they become more knowledgeable about health … and keen to preserve their healthy life expectancy.

It is a market rich in innovation and one in which claim substantiation is key. Alongside traditional dietary supplements for joint health or cholesterol control, emerging science is providing new solutions for memory loss, eyesight maintenance and glucose management. When asked specifically about how the grape and blueberry polyphenols in Diana’s ingredient can help to fight brain ageing, Joyce explains: “It is well understood that oxidation occurs with the development of cognitive-related defects, and polyphenols have been studied widely for their potent antioxidant capabilities.”

“So, although we cannot rule out that Cerebelle’s efficacy derives from decreasing oxidation-related parameters, preclinical data suggests that its method of action is broader than that. Moreover, the published preclinical study demonstrated that these polyphenols stimulate the production of nerve growth factor in the brain with an increase in synaptic plasticity, leading to an improvement of memory.”

“These different pathways strengthen our understanding of the capability of Cerebelle to protect against the memory decline associated with ageing. As such, we look forward to additional studies to further unveil the mechanistic effects associated with Cerebelle supplementation. Of course, delivering these benefits relies heavily on sourcing the best natural ingredients and the standardisation of the product according to the tightest specifications. Diana Food has built this expertise during the past 25 years,” she continues.

“We focus on scientific research that’s dedicated to understanding how polyphenols and other natural (fruit and vegetable derived) health actives help consumers to live a healthy life, whatever their age and condition, and our passion for building a natural solutions portfolio continues to answer consumer needs and exceed customer requirements.”

Looking to the future

Asked about emerging trends, Joyce notes that Diana Food sees strong growth across all the market segments it serves, as the need for natural products, trust and sustainability solutions increase in the industry. “More specifically,” she says: “we see tremendous growth coming from our Consumer Health category wherein Diana Foods provides natural health solutions that are supported by robust science. We also see a growing need for innovative solutions that combine actives to deliver synergistic benefits for human health, such as blending probiotics with botanical extracts.”

“Diana Food is pioneering research on the prebiotic role of polyphenols with the creation of an industrial research chair at INAF-Laval University. Leading experts on probiotics and polyphenols are now starting a 5-year research programme to better understand gut microbiota modulation and its impact on human health.”

In conclusion, Joyce adds: “Cerebelle is a very exciting product and the information we gathered during its development led us to believe that there is more to discover about the role of polyphenols in brain health, across different populations, including young adults. In addition to this, we are investigating the gut-brain axis as part of the INAF-Laval University research programme.”

“Thanks to our team of agronomists, we are able to select the best sources of fruit and vegetables, harvested at the perfect time when their nutritional composition is optimum. This unique sourcing, combined with our know-how in extraction processes and our ability to work with leading scientists, enabled us to develop a groundbreaking product such as Cerebelle.”

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