Dementia is a term used to describe various symptoms of cognitive decline such as forgetfulness. The condition becomes common with normal ageing. A new soy-based flour product has been developed by scientists, which is believed to reduce the risk of dementia in older people.
Eef Hogervorst, Professor of biological psychology in Loughborough University's School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, has been working with her PhD student Atik Irsan and colleagues at the University of Indonesia and Bogor Agricultural University to develop flour that retains the folate and cobalamin found in tempe.
"Our follow-up studies have shown that eating more tempe helps improve the memory of older people in Indonesia. We also found older rats that were given tempe had improved memory and fewer markers associated with dementia, such as plaques on the brain," Hogervorst said.
Tempe is a fermented soy-based product similar to tofu which is widely used for cooking in Asia. Tempe is helpful in retaining memory in older people because it contains phytoestrogens (plant based hormones) and B vitamins.
"Tempe can be chewy, which may make it more difficult for older people to eat it. By turning it into flour it gives us more ways of administering it; we can now use it in a liquid form, making it more accessible to the older population those who would benefit most from tempe," he said.
"We previously found that eating lots of tofu (which also contains phytoestrogens) in Indonesian elderly was associated with worse memory, similar to other studies in older Japanese Americans.
"It may be the case that the folate and cobalamin in tempe protect, allowing phytoestrogens to exert protective effects on the older brain. The next step is to see if we can repeat our initial findings in a Western population. If it works, it will be a major step towards preventing memory decline in old age," Hogervorst said.
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