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New research links a blend of antioxidants to improved cognition, at least in mice. Lilith Matevosyan/Stocksy
  • A new study from Japan has shown that blended antioxidants may improve cognition and memory while suppressing age-related muscle decline in mice.
  • The antioxidant blend used in the study was supplied by a supplement marketed in Japan.
  • However, experts do not recommend inventing one’s own blended antioxidants by combining supplements, as such at-home experiments may be dangerous.
  • Cognitive benefits from blended antioxidants have been observed in mouse research, but, so far, there have not been significant human studies of their effects.

A new study in mice finds that supplements containing a blend of antioxidants may improve spatial cognition, short-term memory, and — surprisingly — muscle durability in older mice.

Antioxidants help promote the health of cells by reducing an excess of unstable free radical molecules that can damage healthy cells. While free radicals occur naturally, too many of them can overwhelm healthy cells, causing what’s called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to a wide range of health issues.

Antioxidants are molecules that can help inhibit or prevent cell damage in the body. They are often found in plants, and some occur in the human body, although there are also synthetic antioxidants consumed as supplements.

The researchers in Japan used a blended antioxidant product, Twendee X, a product currently marketed in that country. It contains eight different types of antioxidants and was formulated by Professor Haruhiko Inufusa of the Department of Antioxidant Research, Center for Scientific Research and Innovation at Gifu University in Japan.

For the new study, 18-month-old genetically modified mice were given a blended antioxidant in water that they were allowed to drink or not drink at will for a month.

Their spatial cognition and short-term memory improved during the test period, as measured by their success in a Morris water maze and Y-maze, compared to mice in the control group provided plain filtered tap water.

Treadmill tests showed that by the end of the study, the blended antioxidant mice increased their running distance significantly more than their normal, control counterparts who were not taking blended antioxidants.

Further attempts to train mice on the treadmills with additional supplement administration showed no discernible effects between the two groups, suggesting the blended antioxidant may not improve exercise capacity or strength, but may help prevent age-related muscle decline.

In post-mortem examination of the blended-antioxidant mice’s brains, the researchers observed a significant decrease in aspartate aminotransferase — an enzyme indicating muscle damage — alanine aminotransferase, as well as total cholesterol values.

The study is published in MDPI.

Blended antioxidants are supplements in which multiple antioxidants have been combined. Their purported benefit is the strengthening of cognition. There have been several studies investigating their value, but as Michelle Routhenstein, registered dietician and nutritionist at noted, clinical studies have occurred only with mice so far.

When asked if blended antioxidants are safe, the study’s first author, Kouji Fukui, PhD, pointed out simply that “This blended supplement is already on sale. Anyone can purchase it. I also drink it every day.”

Both Fukui and Routhenstein cautioned against concocting one’s own blend of antioxidants from existing supplements, although “a combination of them produces a higher effect than a single one,” said Fukui.

“It is nearly impossible for general consumers to choose multiple supplements and continue taking them. Excessive intake of some vitamins can be a problem,” said Fukui. He noted that TwendeeX also “contains amino acids in addition to vitamins, which I think is an interesting combination.”

Routhenstein agreed, saying, “There are safety concerns regarding homemade antioxidant blends, such as challenges in ensuring accurate dosage, potential interactions with medications, contamination, and the risk of toxicity, especially with fat-soluble antioxidants, due to excessive intake.”

Routhenstein said, however, “for research purposes, it is easier to assess [blended antioxidants’] effect and compliance when formulated in specific doses and given in a clinically controlled and studied procedure.”

Can I get these antioxidants from foods?

A person can safely replicate the blended effect by eating a combination of foods that contain different antioxidants.

Antioxidants are readily available in various healthy foods. Among these are broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Cabbage, lettuce, asparagus, and squash are also great sources. Blueberries, strawberries, pecans, artichokes, kale, raspberries, spinach, and okra are also rich in antioxidants, as are beets, beans, and dark chocolate.

In studies, antioxidants have been repeatedly found to support cognition, and, thus, the study’s finding that spatial memory and short-term memory benefited from blended antioxidants is not unexpected, at least in mice.

However, Fukui expressed surprise at his study’s finding that they also seemed to suppress an age-related decline in muscle strength.

“Muscle strength declines with aging, but our blended supplement prevents this decline,” he said.

Fukui pointed out that aging is associated with frailty and sarcopenia, so the finding may have to do with the [Coenzyme Q10] and amino acid ingredients in TwendeeX. “This may have had a positive effect on mitochondria and muscle tissue,” he said.

Although the findings are promising, it is also too early to generalize the results for humans.

“Antioxidants may help alleviate exercise-induced oxidative stress in muscles, potentially aiding in recovery, which can help strengthen muscles. However, more research is necessary to verify these effects of blended antioxidants in human trials,” Routhenstein said.

How blended antioxidants may help brain fog

One of the symptoms associated with long COVID is “brain fog,” a dulling of cognitive powers that can result in a significant change in one’s quality of life.

“It has been suggested that [blended antioxidants] may also be effective against the aftereffects of coronavirus. The main premise is that they have an antioxidant effect,” Fukui added.