A new study from Japan's Tohoku University suggests that the spicy green seasoning may improve short-term and long-term memory, reports New York Post.
Although the research team knew that wasabi had a variety of beneficial properties—antibiotic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory—they were “surprised” to see significant changes in the participants' cognitive abilities.
“The improvements were really significant,” the author said research Rui Nouchi, assistant professor at the university's Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer.
Researchers followed 72 healthy adults over 60 years of age who were randomly given either a placebo or a supplement containing 6-MSITC, a bioactive compound in wasabi that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that stimulate brain function.
“These functions are important for enhancing cognitive performance in older adults,” the study authors wrote.
The 12-week before-and-after study compared participants' cognitive measures: "executive function, episodic memory, processing speed, working memory, and attention."
The group that consumed 6-MSITC “showed significant improvements in working and episodic memory scores,” with the latter jumping by an average of 18 percent, Nuchi said. Although there were no improvements in other areas of cognition, the group scored about 14 percent higher in brain function than the placebo group.
The supplement contained 100 mg of wasabi extract, which is obtained from the roots of the Wasabia japonica plant, which grows in Japan. Researchers believe that wasabi extract reduces levels of oxidants and inflammation in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.
A worthy alternative
But if you can't handle the spicy wasabi, other foods have previously been shown to improve memory: red wine, certain teas, dark chocolate, bananas, cherries or blackberries.
According to research, they contain flavanols, compounds that help improve short-term memory.
The study monitored the memory of more than 3 participants who took either a placebo or 500 mg of flavanol daily for three years. Those who rarely consumed flavanols before the experiment and started taking supplements saw improvements in memory function within a year.