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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note/Eat Your Spinach

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on how spinach might help old rats keep their wits.


TOOMEY: Coming up, Maine moves to banish a native fish. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.


PENNEY: Every cartoon fan knows downing a can spinach gave Popeye superhuman strength. But you may not know that spinach might help the aging hero keep his wits. Researchers at the University of South Florida have found that spinach can help prevent declines in learning and memory in aging rats.

The researchers wanted to see if a diet rich in anti-oxidants could protect a rat’s brain late in life. So they took older rats and fed some of them food containing freeze-dried spinach. Other rats got regular rat chow. The scientists then used a standard test to measure how well these old rats could learn new tricks. They rang a bell and then shot a puff of air at the rats. Eventually, the rats learned to anticipate the puff of air and blink their eyes when they hear the bell.

Typically, rats have trouble learning to do this as they get older. But the rats that ate the spinach learned almost twice as quickly to shut their eyes, compared to rats on the regular diet. The scientists think a diet rich in anti-oxidants might help prevent age-related brain deterioration, and help keep rats, and maybe humans, sharp in their golden years. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Jessica Penney.


TOOMEY: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.




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