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Wasabi Boosts Cognitive Ability

Japanese spice wasabi may offer a potential dietary approach to supporting brain health for individuals over 60.

The study focused on a bioactive compound in wasabi called 6-methylsulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC). Previous research has linked 6-MSITC to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are believed to slow cellular damage and offer protection.

While earlier studies hinted at 6-MSITC’s positive influence on cognition, this was the first investigation focused on older adults – a population most susceptible to cognitive decline and dementia.

The researchers noted in their published paper, “Prior studies suggest that antioxidants and anti-inflammatories play a significant role in maintaining cognitive health among older adults. Based on this, we anticipate that 6-MSITC may have a positive impact on cognitive function in this age group.”

The study involved a 12-week trial with 72 participants over 60 years old. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups, with one group receiving a daily wasabi tablet and the other receiving a placebo.


Interestingly, no changes were detected in other cognitive areas like reasoning, attention, and processing speed. Researchers hypothesize that the specific effects of wasabi, likely due to the compound 6-MSITC, may target the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory function.

“The study suggests that consuming 6-MSITC for twelve weeks selectively enhances working and episodic memory in healthy older adults,”

Further investigation is planned to understand the biological and molecular mechanisms at play. This study did not measure antioxidant or anti-inflammatory biomarkers, limiting definitive conclusions regarding wasabi’s specific impact.

Despite these limitations, a clear connection between wasabi containing 6-MSITC and improved memory function was established. Making dietary choices that prioritize brain health becomes a simple and achievable strategy for maintaining cognitive function as we age.

The researchers highlight the challenges faced by older adults with diminished cognitive function, impacting daily activities like shopping, managing finances, and cooking.

“Therefore, enhancing cognitive function in older adults is of significant importance.”


Cognitive functions decline with age. Declined cognitive functions negatively affect daily behaviors. Previous studies showed the positive effect of spices and herbs on cognition.

In this study, we investigated the positive impact of wasabi, which is a traditional Japanese spice, on cognitive functions. The main bioactive compound of wasabi is 6-MSITC (6 methylsulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate), which has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory functions. Anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories have an important role in cognitive health. Therefore, 6-MSITC is expected to have positive effects on cognitive function. Previous studies showed the beneficial effects on cognitive functions in middle-aged adults. However, it is unclear that 6-MSITC has a positive effect on cognitive functions in healthy older adults aged 60 years and over. Here, we investigated whether 12 weeks’ 6-MSITC intervention enhances cognitive performance in older adults using a double-blinded randomized controlled trial (RCT). Methods: Seventy-two older adults were randomly assigned to 6-MSITC or placebo groups. Participants were asked to take a supplement (6-MSITC or a placebo) for 12 weeks. We checked a wide range of cognitive performances (e.g., executive function, episodic memory, processing speed, working memory, and attention) at the pre- and post-intervention periods. Results: The 6-MSITC group showed a significant improvement in working and episodic memory performances compared to the placebo group. However, we did not find any significant improvements in other cognitive domains.

This study firstly demonstrates scientific evidence that 6-MSITC may enhance working memory and episodic memory in older adults. We discuss the potential mechanism for improving cognitive functions after 6-MSITC intake.

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