Effects of equol on deoxycorticosterone acetate salt-induced hypertension and associated vascular dementia in rats
Oxidative stress is the major cause of neuronal cell degeneration observed in neurodegenerative diseases including vascular dementia (VaD), and hypertension has been found to increase the probability of VaD. Here, we investigated the effects of equol in deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA)-salt-induced hypertensive rats (DHRs) and the associated VaD. The systolic blood pressure of rats treated with low- (10 mg per kg body weight) and high-dose (20 mg per kg body weight) equol for 4 weeks was lower than that of the control group by 12.18 and 17.48% in a dose-dependent manner, respectively (p < 0.05), which was regulated by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) activity and increasing the nitric oxide (NO) production. Equol-treated DHRs showed a significant decrease in both the swimming distance and time required to reach the escape platform (78.20 to 82.56%, p < 0.05). In addition, the probe trial session and working memory test indicated that equol improved the long- and short-term memory of the rats. Moreover, the brain antioxidant activity was increased by elevating the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) levels, and the malondialdehyde (MDA) content and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity were decreased, indicating that equol suppressed oxidative stress. In conclusion, we demonstrated that equol exhibited comparable blood pressure (BP)-lowering and VaD-improving effects with the clinically used drug, lisinopril in DHRs while there was a positive correlation between the doses. Therefore, this bioactive compound may be useful for developing functional foods, thereby extending the application of equol-containing crops.