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The effect of Sea Buckthorn, a polyphenol and antioxidant rich fruit, on


cognitive function

Conference Paper · July 2010


DOI: 10.1017/S0029665110003186

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Alison Mary Warnock Joanne L Vinall


Queen Margaret University Queen Margaret University
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Edinburgh Napier University
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Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2010), 69 (OCE6), E455 doi:10.1017/S0029665110003186

Summer Meeting, 28 June–1 July 2010, Nutrition and health: cell to community

The effect of Sea Buckthorn, a polyphenol and antioxidant vitamin-rich


fruit on cognitive function

M. Warnock, J. Wallace and J. McGeachie


School of Health Sciences, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU, UK

Many aspects of cognitive performance and memory decline throughout adulthood. Working memory describes a system that temporarily
stores and processes information to support reasoning, learning and comprehension. It is a useful tool to describe and study cognitive
function(1).
Polyphenols are thought to modulate the activity of a large number of enzymes and cell receptors, giving them a role in the prevention
of diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as CVD(2). Animal studies have shown improvement in cognitive function(3). Little is
known about their bioavailability.
Sea Buckthorn (SB) a deciduous shrub is native over much of the world including Great Britain. Its berries are among the most enriched
plant sources of vitamin C with an average 695 mg/100 g and they are high in total phenolics, varying from 144 to 244 mg/100 g
(depending on subspecies and cultivation methods)(4). To date, there have been relatively few comprehensive studies on the effects of SB
polyphenols, and there is no published literature on their impact on cognitive function.
Two pilot studies were undertaken to determine if the short-term consumption of SB juice affected working memory. The first, a
placebo-controlled study (n 12) assessed the effect of supplementary polyphenols in 150 ml fruit juice (40 % SB) over a 7-d period. The
intake of vitamins A, C and E and b-carotene were determined by a food frequency questionnaire. The second, a participant-blind
placebo-controlled crossover study (n 10) assessed the bioavailability of polyphenols in juice (20 % SB) and its effects on working
memory in individuals on a polyphenol-restricted diet over a 12-d period. Cognitive function was evaluated in both studies by Corsi block
Word span and Digit span tests(5).
The mean total urinary phenolics (mg/l gallic acid equivalent) were 208.9, 213.5 and 300.3 for baseline, control and SB treatment,
respectively (P for trend = 0.004). There was also an increase in urinary antioxidant capacity, which, although non-significant, correlated
strongly (r = 0.721) with urinary total phenolics. Routine consumption of foods rich in vitamins C and E was positively correlated to
cognitive function with a strong positive relationship observed for Digit span test score and vitamins C (r = 0.828), E (r = 0.684) and
b-carotene (r = 0.565).
The polyphenols in Sea Buckthorn juice are bioavailable (as determined by urinary phenolic output). In these studies, ingestion of SB
either as a supplement or as a dedicated source of polyphenols, in the doses studied, did not confer significant effects on cognitive
function. However, its effect on ameliorating the impact of oxidative stress in health and disease remains to be elucidated.

1. Repova G & Baddeley A (2006) The multi-component model of working memory: explorations in experimental cognitive psychology. Neuroscience
139, 5–21.
2. Vita JA (2005) Polyphenols and cardiovascular disease: effects on endothelial and platelet function. Am J Clin Nutr 81, 292S–297S.
3. Shukkit-Hale B, Carey A, Simon L et al. (2006) Effect of Concorde grape juice on cognitive and motor deficits in ageing. Nutrition 22, 295–302.
4. Warnock M & Miskin D (2008) Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L): “A Review and its Potential as a Crop in Scotland” Rec Prog Med Plants
24, 249–264.
5. Baddeley A (2003) Working memory: looking back and looking forward. Nature Rev 4, 829–839.

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