Nutrition and physical exercise can enhance cognitive function but the specific combinations of dietary bioactives that maximize pro-cognitive effects are not known nor are the contributing neurobiological mechanisms. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a flavonoid constituent of many plants with high levels found in green tea. EGCG has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and is known to cross the blood brain barrier where it can affect brain chemistry and physiology. β-Alanine (B-ALA) is a naturally occurring β-amino acid that could increase cognitive functioning by increasing levels of exercise via increased capacity of skeletal muscle, by crossing the blood brain barrier and acting as a neurotransmitter, or by free radical scavenging in muscle and brain after conversion into carnosine. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of EGCG (~250mg/kg/day), B-ALA (~550mg/kg/day), and their combination with voluntary wheel running exercise on the following outcome measures: body composition, time to fatigue, production of new cells in the granule layer of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus as a marker for neuronal plasticity, and behavioral performance on the contextual and cued fear conditioning tasks, as measures of associative learning and memory. Young adult male BALB/cJ mice approximately 2months old were randomized into 8 groups varying the nutritional supplement in their diet and access to running wheels over a 39day study period. Running increased food intake, decreased fat mass, increased time to exhaustive fatigue, increased numbers of new cells in the granule layer of the hippocampus, and enhanced retrieval of both contextual and cued fear memories. The diets had no effect on their own or in combination with exercise on any of the fitness, plasticity, and behavioral outcome measures other than B-ALA decreased percent body fat whereas EGCG increased lean body mass slightly. Results suggest that, in young adult BALB/cJ mice, a 39day treatment of exercise but not dietary supplementation with B-ALA or EGCG enhances measures of fitness, neuroplasticity and cognition.
Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; Catechin; EGCG; Exercise; Fear conditioning; Flavonoid; Green tea; Hippocampus; Voluntary wheel running; β-Alanine.
Published by Elsevier Inc.