When I’m asked about a given supplement or supplement ingredient, I’m often confronted by a question: whether a product actually improves something, or only prevents a bad thing from happening.
In the case of Pterostilbene (the active antioxidant in blueberries), there is ample evidence that it can improve the symptoms of AD; but there aren’t any studies showing it can improve the brain activity in healthy people. In this article, I’ll explain how the science has reached its AD conclusions, and what it may mean, or not mean, for the rest of us.
What is Pterostilbene?
Found most commonly in blueberries, Pterostilbene is a powerful and easily absorbed antioxidant. If you’re not familiar with antioxidants, they’re more than just a health-food craze–they’re essential for a healthy life. In fact, the neuroprotective properties of them have been studied for everything from gut health to brain tumors.
Pterostilbene itself has had the widest applications in medicine, and its ability to protect brain cells has been well-researched. Most of this research has been in the field of disease prevention and treatment, but there may be applications for healthy persons, as well.
In Alzheimer’s Research
Several clinical trials, like one you can read here, have shown that Pterostilbene is beneficial in preservation of brain cells in aging animals. That research has extended to showing it can even affect the action of a molecular messenger called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). These PPARs are especially active when the brain is suffering from degenerative diseases like AD.
In these cases, PPARs prevent inflammation, increase enzyme transcriptions, and prevent oxidative stress on the brain. Pterostilbene has been seen to directly impact those PPARs.
Application to Non-AD Persons
A growing amount of evidence shows that PPARs play a similar role in AD patients as it does in anyone with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs affect millions of people every year, many times without them knowing it, with 80% of them being dismissed as “mild”.
In the cases of TBI, the brain knows it needs to heal, even if the person doesn’t, and these processes can take years. That’s why Ptersostilbene may be beneficial for anyone who has ever had a head injury–no matter how “mild”–as this powerful antioxidant may improve the healing process.
Pterostilbene and Healthy Adults
There is limited data on the specifically cognitive benefits of Pterostilbene in already healthy people. This lack of data, however, may only owe to how much research attention is being paid to the very serious issues of AD and TBI. Until such a time when cognitive function trials are run with Pterostilbene as the control, and performance in healthy adults as the outcome, we just can’t know if there is any concrete connection.
We can know, however, that oxidative stress is a real concern for all people’s brain health, and that the protection of neurons can help sustain all people’s cognitive function, two important roles we have seen Pterostilbene play.
While there is no evidence of a specific clinical trial where people are given Pterostilbene and then asked to perform cognitive tasks, there is more than ample evidence that this antioxidant can improve damaged brain cells, almost regardless of the cause. There is even growing support that it can prevent damage in the future. These effects are more in line with “preventing a bad thing” than “improving a good thing,” though arguably just as important for overall brain health.