Green tea and blueberries may protect you against dementia, a study suggests
- Compounds in tea and berries reduced plaques, which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s
- Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of the degenerative disease dementia
- The findings apply to more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s
According to a study, green tea can prevent dementia.
Chemicals found in the herbal drink called catechins reduced plaques, which have been strongly linked to Alzheimer’s, in a lab study.
The compound resveratrol, found in blueberries, grapes, and red wine, also had a similar effect on human brain cells.
Catechins and resveratrol possess anti-inflammatory properties, which may explain their plaque-clearing abilities.
Tufts University researchers reported their findings in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than six million Americans.
It is characterized by a lack of communication between neurons in the brain, leading to loss of function and cell death.
Catechins are compounds in green tea that have antioxidant effects that help prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation in the brain. Tufts researchers looked at these and 20 other compounds for their anti-Alzheimer properties, including resveratrol, which is common in blueberries and grapes.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease in which the buildup of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that transmit messages and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people have the disease in the US, where it is the sixth leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.
When brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.
These include memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.
The course of the disease is slow and insidious.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some can live 10 to 15 years.
- loss of short-term memory
- behavior changes
- mood swings
- Difficulty handling money or using the phone
- Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
- Anxious and frustrated with inability to understand the world, leading to aggressive behavior
- Eventually lose the ability to walk
- May have trouble eating
- The majority will eventually require 24-hour care
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
In a brain affected by Alzheimer’s, abnormal levels of certain naturally occurring proteins clump together to form plaques that accumulate between neurons and disrupt cell function.
But catechins and resveratrol have been shown to be effective in reducing the formation of plaque in these nerve cells. And they did so with little or no side effects.
Some of the other compounds tested, including curcumin from turmeric, the diabetic drug metformin, and a compound called citicoline, also prevented plaque formation.
They tested the effectiveness of 21 compounds in a 3D neural tissue model made from a non-reactive silk sponge seeded with human skin cells that were genetically reprogrammed to transform them into self-renewing neural stem cells.
dr Dana Cairns, research associate at Tufts School of Engineering and leader of the study, said: “We were fortunate that some of these showed some pretty strong efficacy.
“Those compounds that passed the screen had virtually no plaques visible after about a week.”
The research team’s findings, which point to the anti-plaque properties of common compounds, have the potential to help millions of people and build on years of research into their therapeutic benefits.
Green tea and berries are high in flavonoids, which can reduce cell-damaging free radicals, reduce inflammation in the brain, and improve blood flow to the brain.
The Tufts researchers’ findings are inconclusive that the neuroprotective properties of the 21 compounds studied will help curb the progression of dementia.
For example, some of the compounds studied are not readily absorbed into the body or bloodstream.
And some compounds were unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, a barrier between the brain’s blood vessels and the cells and other components that make up brain tissue.
The purpose of the blood-brain barrier is to protect against circulating toxins or pathogens that could cause brain infections.
according to dr Cairns, further studies are needed on the adaptability of these compounds to better penetrate the bloodstream and the blood-brain barrier.
However, her team’s findings are significant because there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and treatments to slow the progression of the disease are limited.
Alzheimer’s is not the only cause of dementia, which affects over 7 million people in the United States. Other causes include Parkinson’s disease and vascular dementia, which are caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to different regions of the brain.