A large scale randomized controlled trial validates the effectiveness of essence of chicken in improving memory function.
Essence of chicken (EC), a popular nutritional supplement in Southeast Asia, is used traditionally for various health benefits. These include reduction in fatigue, hyperglycemia and anxiety. Furthermore, it increases metabolic rate and, improves colostrum composition in lactating women.
The most recent and largest clinical study by Suttiwan et al. was a large, high quality randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving 235 healthy adults, who were assigned to consume either EC or placebo, to investigate the cognitive benefits of EC.
The RCT showed that EC enhanced both short-term memory and working memory after daily consumption for 2 weeks. However, no effect of EC was seen in selective attention or sustained attention.
In this study, short term memory was assessed using the Digit Span Forward test. Based on previous clinical study findings, the researchers postulated that subgroups with higher stress levels would benefit more in short-term memory. Results from this RCT confirmed this hypothesis, as sub-group analyses revealed that short term memory enhancement with BEC was observed only in participants with moderate to severe stress, and not in participants with normal or mild baseline stress.
Working memory was assessed using the Digit Span Backward test. Compared to the placebo group, participants consuming BEC showed a statistically significant larger improvement in working memory test scores. Earlier studies investigating physiological mechanisms behind EC’s cognitive enhancing effect had shown increased brain activation with functional neuroimaging methods1 as subjects performed working memory tasks. Furthermore, EC had also shown cortisol-modulating effects, where EC a faster clearance of elevated blood cortisol levels back to baseline levels2.
Interestingly, in the current study by Suttiwan et al., the placebo drink was formulated with marine collagen to supply an equivalent protein content to a serving of EC. In spite of this, the EC group showed greater memory improvement than placebo. This suggests that the specific EC composition of chicken peptides and amino acids, rather than the overall protein macronutrient content, was responsible for the memory enhancement effects.
Based on other studies demonstrating the antioxidant and neuroprotective effects of carnosine and anserine, the authors suggested that these dipeptides found in EC, as well as other bioactive amino acids, such as branched chain amino acids, tyrosine, arginine, histidine and glutamic acid could be the specific constituents contributing to the memory improvement effect of EC.
In summary, the study showed improvements in memory function, both working memory and short term memory (in stressed individuals), in healthy individuals with daily consumption within 2 weeks. Healthy individuals, particularly those who are stressed in their daily lives, can benefit from EC supplementation.
Suttiwan P, Yuktanandana P, Ngamake S. Effectiveness of Essence of Chicken on Cognitive Function Improvement: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2018;10(7):845.
- Konagai C, Watanabe H, Abe K, Tsuruoka N, Koga Y. Effects of essence of chicken on cognitive brain function: a near-infrared spectroscopy study. Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry. 2013 Jan 23;77(1):178-81.
- Benton D, Young HA. The effect of chicken essence on cognition and mood: A randomized controlled trial. Current Topics in Nutraceuticals Research. 2015 May 1;13(2):61.