Inflammation in the brain appears to be a key contributor to age-related memory problems, and it may be that this has to do with the dysregulation of microglia that, previous research has shown, occurs with age. As these specialized support cells in the brain do normally when there’s an infection, with age microglia start to produce excessive cytokines, some of which result in the typical behaviors that accompany illness (sleepiness, appetite loss, cognitive deficits and depression).
Now new cell and mouse studies suggests that the flavenoid luteolin, known to have anti-inflammatory properties, apparently has these benefits because it acts directly on the microglial cells to reduce their production of inflammatory cytokines. It was found that although microglia exposed to a bacterial toxin produced inflammatory cytokines that killed neurons, if the microglia were first exposed to luteolin, the neurons lived. Exposing the neuron to luteolin had no effect.
Old mice fed a luteolin-supplemented diet for four weeks did better on a working memory test than old mice on an ordinary diet, and restored levels of inflammatory cytokines in their brains to that of younger mice.
Luteolin is found in many plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile.
(2010). Luteolin Inhibits Microglia and Alters Hippocampal-Dependent Spatial Working Memory in Aged Mice.
J. Nutr.. 140(10), 1892 - 1898.