Background: Experimental evidences have demonstrated that Nigella sativa Linn. seed (NS) has positive modulation effects on aged rats with memory impairments, prevents against hippocampal pyramidal cell loss and enhances consolidation of recall capability of stored information and spatial memory in rats. NS has neuroprotective, nephroprotective, lung protective, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective activities as established by previous studies on animals. Several clinical trials with NS on human have also demonstrated beneficial effect.
Aim of the study: The present study was designed to investigate the effects of NS on memory, attention and cognition in healthy elderly volunteers. Furthermore, safety profile of NS was assessed during the nine-week study period.
Methods: Forty elderly volunteers were recruited and divided randomly into group A and group B--each consisting of 20 volunteers. The treatment procedure for group A was 500 mg NS capsule twice daily for nine weeks and Group B received placebo instead of NS in the similar manner. All the volunteers were assessed for neuropsychological state and safety profile twice before treatment and after nine weeks. The neuropsychological tests were logical memory test, digit span test, Rey-Osterrieth complex figure test, letter cancellation test, trail making test and stroop test. Safety profile was assessed by measuring biochemical markers of Cardiac (total cholesterol, triglycerides and high density lipoprotein cholesterol, very low density lipoprotein, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, creatine kinase-MB); Liver (aspartate aminotransferase, alanin aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, total protein, albumin, bilirubin) and Kidney (creatinine and blood urea nitrogen) through using commercial kits.
Results: There was significant difference (p<0.05) in the score of logical memory test-I and II, total score of digit span, 30 min delayed-recall, percent score in Rey-Osterrieth complex figure test, time taken to complete letter cancellation test, time taken in trail making test-A and test-B, score in part C of stroop test due to ingestion of NS for nine weeks. There were not statistically significant changes (p>0.05) in any of the biochemical markers of cardiac, liver, kidney function during this nine-week study period.
Conclusions: The current study demonstrates the role of NS in enhancing memory, attention and cognition. Therefore, whether NS could be considered as potential food supplement for preventing or slow progressing of Alzheimer disease needs further investigations. However, study with Alzheimer's patients with large population size for longer period of time is recommended before using NS daily and extensive phytochemical investigations are recommended for novel drug discovery from NS for treating cognitive disorders.
Keywords: Attention test; Cognitive test; Memory test; Neuropsychological tests; Nigella sativa Linn. seeds; Toxicity study.
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