Wasabi offers a memory-boosting kick to an aging brain

Wasabi offers a memory-boosting kick to an aging brain
It sure feels like wasabi can clear your mind, and research suggests there is some truth to that
It sure feels like wasabi can clear your mind, and research suggests there is some truth to that
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It sure feels like wasabi can clear your mind, and research suggests there is some truth to that
It sure feels like wasabi can clear your mind, and research suggests there is some truth to that

If you’ve ever misjudged the potency of a dollop of wasabi on your sushi, you’ll be well versed in its ability to clear sinuses and, for a moment, have you feeling like you can see through space and time.

But this Japanese condiment that packs a punch like few others has in recent times been the focus of studies into its positive impact on memory and cognitive function. Now, for the first time, it has been shown to improve short- and long-term memory, and bolster associative memory, in the brains of people aged 60-80 years.

In this study, the researchers performed a double-blinded randomized control trial on a cohort of 72 older adults for 12 weeks. Half took a daily supplement made up of 100 mg of wasabi extract, while the control group received an inactive 100-mg cyclodextrin tablet.

The wasabi supplement contained 0.8 mg of 6-methylsulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC), the active ingredient that appears to hold the key to better memory function.

With previously studied anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, 6-MSITC is present in cruciferous vegetables but is most concentrated in the underground rhizome of the wasabi plant (Eutrema japonicum). This part of the plant, of course, is used to make the earthy hot mustard-like paste that is an essential condiment for any sashimi and sushi spread.

Before and after the trial, the participants completed cognitive tests that included a focus on processing speed, attention, short-term memory, working memory, executive functions and visual-spatial abilities.

The results showed that those who took their nightly wasabi tablets had improved long- and short-term memory and did better on association tests, such as linking names to faces. The placebo cohort showed no differences in cognitive function.

The researchers believe 6-MSITC affects the brain’s hippocampus region, which is a key component of memory function. They now hope to look at how this bioactive compound is affecting this area on a molecular level.

“These findings suggest that the 12 weeks’ 6-MSITC intake selectively enhances working and episodic memory functions in healthy older adults,” the researchers noted. “This study is the first to demonstrate that 6-MSITC has a benefit on memory functioning in healthy older adults.”

The good news for those who don't enjoy the wasabi burn? When packaged up in a supplement, all the pain is happily bypassed.

The research was published in the journal Nutrients.

Source: Tohoku University via Medical Xpress

Cymon Curcumin
It would be nice to have some kind of idea about how significant the improvements were. Maybe further research might ask questions like how long the effects last after stopping the supplements and whether the body acquires a tolerance which reduces efficacy like it does with caffeine. I’ve had a keen mind for things like concepts and theories and certain types of facts but a horrible memory for things like faces, names, details and other things so this would be very interesting to me if the effects were more than borderline significant. I wonder what amount of the stuff would correspond to a 100 mg extract supplement. I’m a fan of spicy food so I would probably rather buy the condiment than hunt for extract supplements which are probably hard to find.
It is worth noting that all wasabi is not wasabi. Wasabi is made from a wild plant that is extremely difficult to cultivate. It is both rare and very expensive. But most "wasabi" yuou see in the US is NOT wasabi, but just ground horseradish with some green dye. Real wasabi has strong anti-parasitic properties. Horseradish does not.
Another use for the "green ice cream". ;)
Cymon Curcumin
@bobcat: Good point. If it is the 6-methylsulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate that is providing the effect then whether “Wasabi style horseradish” is also effective would depend on if the “allyl isothiocyanate” found in horseradish and mustard has the same effect.

If not, and if the memory effect is real, it would spark research into easier ways of cultivating wasabi—or maybe hybridizing or tweaking horseradish to produce 6-methylsulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate.
I mistook green wasabi one day for guacamole. A spoonful caused my breathing to almost stop,
I don’t think I was any smarter after I recovered, other than, when I see that green stuff I’m smart enough to test it lightly.😳
Near-totally meaningless improvement (typically less than 1%) in every test. When a study doesn't mention the most important thing, there's always a reason for that.