Powerful antioxidants found in red wine, cocoa and a wide range of fruits and vegetables may help people avoid suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, it has been claimed.
Recent studies from King’s College London suggest that plant chemicals called flavonoids may help to keep the brain healthy in old age. The compounds are already known to benefit the heart and possibly reduce the risk of cancer.
Antioxidants absorb oxygen free radicals that can damage cell walls and DNA, but not all flavonoids can enter the brain. Clinical trials with other antioxidants such as vitamin E showed no positive effect on dementia.
However, biochemist Dr Robert Williams told the British Pharmacological Society’s Summer Meeting in Edinburgh that flavonoids could protect the brain through other mechanisms.
His King’s College research team focused on a flavonoid called epicatechin which is found in a number of foods, including cocoa.
Dr Williams said: “We have found that epicatechin protects brain cells from damage but through a mechanism unrelated to its antioxidant activity and shown in laboratory tests that it can also reduce some aspects of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.”
Flavonoids protect the brain against the sticky clumps of abnormal beta amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s, according to Dr Williams.
Copyright Press Association 2009