Microglial cells are specialized immune cells that reside in the brain and spinal cord. During normal aging, microglial cells become dysregulated and begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines.
Considerable evidence suggests the flavonoid luteolin has antiinflammatory effects, but its ability to inhibit microglia, reduce inflammatory mediators, and improve hippocampal-dependent learning and memory in aged mice was hitherto unknown.
Scientists led by Rodney Johnson of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at University of Illinois examined the effects of dietary luteolin in a mouse model of aging found that luteolin improves cognitive health by acting directly on the microglial cells to reduce their production of inflammatory cytokines in the brain.
"We believe dietary luteolin accesses the brain and inhibits or reduces activation of microglial cells and the inflammatory cytokines they produce. This anti-inflammatory effect is likely the mechanism which allows their working memory to be restored to what it was at an earlier age."
"These data suggest that consuming a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health," he said.
S. Jang, R. N. Dilger, R. W. Johnson. Luteolin Inhibits Microglia and Alters Hippocampal-Dependent Spatial Working Memory in Aged Mice. Journal of Nutrition, 2010 Oct;140(10):1892-8Picture Credit