A new study published in the journal Nutrients suggests that wasabi, the pungent green Japanese horseradish often served alongside sushi, could help boost memory in older adults.
The research involved 72 healthy Japanese adults between the ages of 60 and 80. For 12 weeks, half the participants took a daily wasabi extract supplement containing 0.8 milligrams of 6-methylsulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC), a compound found in wasabi known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The other half took a placebo.
Before and after the trial, all participants took a series of cognitive tests assessing memory, attention, processing speed and other measures of brain function.
Those who took the wasabi supplement showed significant improvements in both short-term and long-term memory compared to the placebo group. In particular, their episodic memory (recalling events and experiences) got better, as did their working memory (holding information in mind and using it). The wasabi group also performed better on tests of associative memory, like matching names to faces.
Researchers believe the memory-boosting effects come from 6-MSITC’s ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the hippocampus, the brain region critical for memory formation.
While more research is still needed, this preliminary evidence suggests that simply sprinkling some wasabi into your meals can help keep your memory sharp as you age. The researchers now hope to further explore the mechanisms behind wasabi’s apparent brain-boosting abilities.