Wasabi boosts memory: Japanese research excites!

Wasabi boosts memory | Credits: Shutterstock
Wasabi boosts memory | Credits: Shutterstock

United States: Wasabi, the green herb used to season sushi, may have memory-boosting properties, according to recent Japanese research.

The robustness of the findings astonished the researchers, according to lead researcher Rui Nouchi, an associate professor at Tohoku University’s Institute of Development, Aging, and Cancer, even though the findings were based on a small number of healthy volunteers.

 “We knew from earlier animal studies that wasabi conferred health benefits,” researcher Rui Nouchi told CBS News. “But what really surprised us was the dramatic change. The improvement was really substantial.”

 The findings were just published in the journal Nutrients. 

What may be causing the memory increase that Wasabi provides?

 The key component in Wasabi is 6-MSITC, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecule found only in tiny levels throughout the plant kingdom, according to Nouchi.

 Seventy-two healthy participants between the ages of 60 and 80 were divided into two groups for the research. One group received 100 milligrams (mg) of wasabi extract before bed, while the others received a placebo.

Wasabi Plant

 After three months, the wasabi group saw boosts in both short- and long-term memory based on standard tests for language skills, concentration, and ability to carry out simple tasks.

Those who got the Wasabi saw their episodic memory scores jump an average of 18%, Nouchi said, and they scored an average of 14% higher than the placebo group overall.

The researchers theorized that 6-MSITC reduces inflammation and oxidant levels in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

 Wasabi-treated volunteers had “better performance in associating faces and names, which is often the major memory-related problem in older adults,” according to Nouchi.

Nouchi, a dementia prevention specialist, said he turned to Wasabi after finding high dropout rates with other techniques of brain health preservation, such as the Mediterranean diet, exercise, and music therapy. He reasoned that a daily supplement would be more convenient for elders to consume while providing greater benefits than other anti-inflammatory spices like ginger and turmeric.

The Tohoku team intends to test Wasabi on different age groups and see whether it might delay cognitive impairment in dementia patients.

 However, good luck finding the real Wasabi at your local restaurant, CBS News reported, since many just use white horseradish that is dyed green.

Native to Japan, Wasabi is notoriously difficult to cultivate. CBS News reported that the plant takes nearly two years to reach maturity and requires exacting growing conditions.

Luckily, just a small dab will match what was used in the Japanese study, the researchers added. Wasabi maker Kinjirushi Co. funded the study, although the researchers said the company had no role in the study itself.

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