Whether you enjoy garlic and its pungent aroma, or can’t stand it and avoid it at all costs, one thing is for certain - garlic is one of the most nutritious foods with many health benefits.
Garlic (Allium sativum) belongs to the onion family of species (Allium), just like onions, shallots, chives, leeks, and Chinese onions.
It has a long history of medicinal use for thousands of years, extending to ancient Egypt.
Simply put, garlic is one of those foods that people somehow instinctively know that it’s good for them, even when they don’t like it that much.
But, could garlic also be helpful for memory and learning difficulties?
Why This Is Important
Garlic also contains S-Allylcysteine (SAC), which is a chemical compound with antioxidant properties and the ability to be rapidly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract.
It’s also considered to be very helpful for improving memory function and thought to inhibit the loss of neural cells.
This compound is especially abundant in mature garlic extract, which is obtained from garlic that has been slowly aged at a lower temperature, compared to aged garlic extract obtained from regular black garlic.
Its high bioavailability and ability to successfully cross the blood-brain barrier has inspired a group of scientists from Japan to examine its exact effects on memory and learning.
They conducted a mouse model trial with the hypothesis that MGE could improve cognitive function, especially in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
What They Found
This study was primarily focused on the antioxidative effects of SAC and mature garlic extract components.
They took this approach because the exact mechanism of action regarding SAC’s effects on memory-related receptors and neuronal growth and survival in the hippocampus are unclear and need better understanding.
The study proved to be successful, and the results were very consistent with the initial hypothesis.
The researchers conducted their study in two steps: first, they examined the effects of both SAC and mature garlic extract on mouse hippocampal neurons, and then they conducted behavioral tests on mice fed with either SAC or mature garlic extract for 10 months in order to see the effects of prolonged intake.
Let’s look at the evidence:
- SAC and other auxiliary components found in mature garlic extract work together to enhance the process of wiring in the nervous system by aiding the developing neurons in producing new impulses as they grow. This improves the brain’s ability to receive information.
- It improved short and long-term memory retention related to spatial memory and helped to restore it to some extent. In fact, according to the study, the mice fed with either mature garlic extract or SAC showed “significantly reduced learning and memory dysfunction and significant improvements in learning and short and long-term memory formation.”
- It increased learning ability and memory function by increasing the levels of expression of NMDA and AMPA receptors of the proteins responsible for memory and learning. NMDA and AMPA are glutamate receptors that are involved in different processes of memory formation.
What’s the Conclusion
This study shows some very promising results regarding the effects of MGF and its component SAC on memory, learning, and alleviating cognitive dysfunction.
Of course, more tests are needed to examine how exactly they induce structural changes in the neural cells, but for now, these results are quite conclusive.
So, even if you detest garlic, maybe you’ll think twice before passing up that fragrant garlic bread next time!
Resource: Hashimoto, M.; Nakai, T.; Masutani, T.; Unno, K.; Akao, Y. Improvement of Learning and Memory in Senescence-Accelerated Mice by S-Allylcysteine in Mature Garlic Extract. Nutrients 2020, 12, 1834.