Dementia: Memory impairment may be helped with wheatgrass

Neuroprotective effects of Triticum aestivum L. against β-amyloid-induced cell death and memory impairments

Jang, J-H., Kim, C-Y., Lim, SH, Yang, CH., Song, K-S., Han, HS., Lee, H-K., Lee, J., Phytotherapy Research, 24:76-84, 2010.

Background:
In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), one of the key proteins that is involved in forming the plaques that appear to be critical in the development of AD is called β-amyloid. Oxidative stress—or the build-up of very reactive molecules is also thought to be very important in the development of AD.  It is believed that the combination of the accumulation of β-amyloid protein along with high levels of oxidative stress are responsible for the increasing cognitive difficulties, memory defects and the eventual dementia so characteristic of AD.
Triticum aestivum is the scientific name for wheatgrass and was used in these studies to determine to see if it could protect brain cells from the effects of β-amyloid and oxidative stress.  In these studies, both brain cells in culture and a rat model of AD were studied to determine the degree of potential protection by wheatgrass.

Laboratory Studies:
Cultured brain cells were treated with β-amyloid with or without wheatgrass extract and their survival rate was determined. Wheatgrass did indeed protect the brain cells from damage by β-amyloid protein.
The researchers also tested to determine if wheatgrass could protect lab rats in an animal model of AD and found that the wheatgrass extract protected the animals from short-term memory loss and learning/cognitive abilities.

Conclusions:
The researchers concluded that wheatgrass extract protected the β-amyloid treated brain cells from damage and death. Additional experiments indicated that at least part of this protection was due to a decrease in the reactive molecules underlying oxidative stress—the wheatgrass increased the availability of glutathione, a naturally occurring anti-oxidant.  They also concluded that the wheatgrass extract protected the learning process and memory in lab animals.