Spicy surprise: Study says wasabi linked to ‘substantial’ memory boost

Exciting news for sushi lovers! 

Wasabi, the zesty green condiment paired with your favorite sushi, doesn’t just add flavor to your meal; it may also contribute to the well-being of your brain, a new study published in the journal Nutrients found.

Researchers from Tohoku University in Japan found that wasabi contains a beneficial compound called 6-MSITC. This compound has substantial health benefits and improves both short- and long-term memory.

In a study with 72 participants aged 60 to 80, half took 100 milligrams of wasabi extract before bedtime, and the other half received a placebo.

After 12 weeks, the study says that the group that received the extract showed “a significant improvement in working and episodic memory performances,” meaning better memory in short-term and long-term aspects. This was measured through tests on language skills, concentration, and simple tasks. However, there was no improvement in other things like staying focused or processing speed.

“We knew from earlier animal studies that wasabi conferred health benefits. But what really surprised us was the dramatic change. The improvement was really substantial,” the study’s lead author, Rui Nouchi, Ph.D., a psychologist and an associate professor at the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University, told CBS News.

The only problem with this finding is that real wasabi is very rare to find in the U.S.; instead, 95% of the wasabi products we buy in stores or restaurants are blends of horseradish, Chinese mustard, and food coloring. This is because the plant is very difficult to cultivate, and it can take as long as three years to mature.

But if you can’t get your hands on the real deal, the study notes that wasabi isn’t the only one, as other research suggests that spices and herbs also offer health benefits. For example, including ginger and garlic in your diet can enhance cognitive functions in older adults.

And if you do get your hands on some authentic wasabi, make sure you eat it right away, as it starts losing its flavor in just minutes.