In recent years there has been increasing interest in how the foods people eat can affect their thinking and memory. Researchers at the University of South Australia’s Nutritional Physiology Research Centre are now embarking on a series of studies that will look at how an extract from wild oats can potentially improve memory and other brain functions.
"Oats in their various forms and extracts have long been recognised for their physiological and psychological fortifying properties," said Dr Janet Bryan from UniSA’s School of Psychology who is leading the study.
"In addition to their use as a staple wholegrain cereal, oat extracts have traditionally been used to treat nervous exhaustion, depression, anxiety and as a topical application for rheumatic ailments. Research has shown that regular consumption of oats can reduce the risk of heart disease, however further research is required to ascertain other potential health benefits.
"It is thought that extracts of wild oats contain certain bioactive nutrients which may be able to assist in improving blood flow in the brain, which in turn could lead to improvements in memory and psychological well being."
Dr Bryan has worked extensively in the field of nutrition and cognitive ageing, and is looking forward to investigating the acute effects of the oat supplement.
"This project is exciting as it is the first to investigate whether extracts from oats can assist with thinking and memory, as well as stress coping abilities and feelings of well-being in older age. The study will also examine whether these effects are due to the oat extract increasing blood flow to the brain."
In order to conduct the study, the researchers need suitable volunteers to take part.
"We are looking for men and women aged between 50 and 90 years that have experienced some form of mild memory loss." Dr Byran said. "The memory loss does not have to be a significant problem and we invite anyone who thinks they may be eligible to volunteer to contact us to find out more.
"Participants will be making a valuable contribution to the scientific knowledge on the nutritional requirements for healthy ageing."
Volunteers will be screened to check their level of memory loss. If eligible they will be asked to come to the Nutritional Physiology Research Centre (in the city) on three separate occasions during which they will take varying doses of the test supplement or placebo in tablet form. An hour after taking the tablets, participants will undertake a series of physiological and psychological tests. All participants will receive an honorarium to assist with travel costs.
(Source: University of South Australia: April 2009)