Dr Katherine Kent
Nutrition, Medical and Health Sciences
University of Tasmania
Dementia is a leading cause of death in Australia and with no cure, alternative therapies that slow the development and progression of dementia are needed. Nutrition is a promising area of research and in particular, a group of compounds called flavonoids. Flavonoids are an amazing array of over 6000 compounds found in virtually all plants. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid that provide the red/purple pigmentation in fruits, such as cherries. Anthocyanins may protect the brain against dementia by improving blood flow to the brain and by fighting the deterioration of brain cells, which happens as a result of ageing and dementia.
Dr Kent’s team conducted pioneering dietary trials that assessed the impact of consuming cherry anthocyanins on memory and cognition in dementia patients. While no immediate cognitive effects were observed, a daily 200ml serving of cherry juice significantly improved some measures of memory in the dementia patients after only 12 weeks. While cherries may not be a silver bullet cure for dementia, the fact that small dietary changes could potentially preserve and improve the memory of dementia patients is a very significant outcome.
Katherine has been invited to a local high school to present the career opportunities in nutritional sciences to science students. She has also spoken in community presentations and have provided numerous free public lectures on nutrition in ageing (e.g. Rotary & U3A). Her research has been widely broadcast in the media and she has given several radio and television interviews and have been featured in a professional YouTube video about my research.