According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans are currently living with some form of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the sixth largest cause of death in the U.S, and one out of every three seniors will die with AD or another form of dementia.
Though scientists have spent years looking, so far there is no cure. But researchers from the University of Southern California may have gotten a little closer to finding one according to a study recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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To conduct the study, researchers split up a group of 32 mice—half male, half female, all of which were genetically programmed to have Alzheimer’s-like symptoms—into four groups. For comparison, each group also had an equal number of healthy mice. Before beginning the study, all the mice were tested with a series of neuropsychological tasks—like running through a Y-shaped maze—to gauge their spatial memory.
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The study took a look at two compounds: EGCG, or epigallocatechin-3-gallate, a type of catechin, or antioxidant, found in green tea, and FA, or ferulic acid, another antioxidant found in carrots, tomatoes, rice, wheat, and oats. For three months, the mice consumed a combination of EGCG and FA, only EGCG, only FA, or a placebo. The dosage of each compound was 30mg per kg of body weight—a manageable and well-tolerated amount, even for humans.
At the end of the three-month study, researchers tested the mice again. They found the mice that consumed the compounds had reversed their Alzheimer’s-like symptoms completely.
“After three months, combination treatment completely restored spatial working memory and the Alzheimer’s mice performed just as well as the healthy comparison mice,” Terrence Town, a professor of physiology and neuroscience at the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, said in a press release.
Town said the compounds may help prevent amyloid precursor proteins from breaking up into amyloid beta (a toxic, smaller protein that’s found in Alzheimer patients’ brains.) These compounds also helped reduce neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are traits found in human Alzheimer’s patients’ brains.
“You don’t have to wait 10 to 12 years for a designer drug to make it to market; you can make these dietary changes today,” said Town. “I find that very encouraging.”
While it’s definitely promising that plant-based therapies may offer protection against AD and/or dementia, there are a few major caveats to this study. First, it was done in mice (rodent discoveries rarely translate into human treatments), and the study wasn’t very large. But here are some recipes for carrots and green tea just in case.
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