Diet Reverses Alzheimer’s Symptoms



A diet containing compounds found in green tea and carrots
reversed Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in mice genetically programmed to develop
the disease, USC researchers say.

Researchers emphasize that the study, published in the
Journal of Biological Chemistry, was in mice, and many mouse discoveries never
translate into human treatments. Nevertheless, the findings lend credence to
the idea that certain readily available, plant-based supplements might offer
protection against dementia in humans.

“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 senior
author Terrence Town, a professor of physiology and neuroscience at the Keck
School of Medicine of USC’s Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute. “I find that very
encouraging.”

Diet
and Alzheimer’s: Combination therapy

What’s more, the study supports the idea that combination
therapy, rather than a single magic bullet, may offer the best approach to
treating the 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. Combination
treatment is already the standard of care for diseases such as cancer, HIV
infection and rheumatoid arthritis.

For this study, the researchers took a look at two
compounds, EGCG, or epigallocatechin-3-gallate, a key ingredient in green tea,
and FA, or ferulic acid, which is found in carrots, tomatoes, rice, wheat and
oats.

The researchers randomly assigned 32 mice with
Alzheimer’s-like symptoms to one of four groups with an equal number of males
and females. For comparison, each group also included an equal number of healthy
mice. For three months, the mice consumed a combination of EGCG and FA, or EGCG
or FA only, or a placebo. The dosage was 30 milligrams per kilogram of body
weight — a dosage well-tolerated by humans and easily consumed as part of a
healthy diet.

Diet
and Alzheimer’s: Testing results

Before and after the three-month special diet, scientists
ran the mice through a battery of neuropsychological tests that are roughly
analogous to the thinking and memory tests that assess dementia in humans. Of
particular note was a maze in the shape of a Y, which tests a mouse’s spatial
working memory — a skill that humans use to find their way out of a building.

Healthy mice instinctively explore each arm of the Y maze,
looking for food or a route to escape and entering the three arms in sequence
more often than by chance alone. Impaired mice can’t do this as well as their
mentally healthy counterparts.

“After three months, combination treatment completely
restored spatial working memory and the Alzheimer’s mice performed just as well
as the healthy comparison mice,” Town said.

How did it work? Town says one mechanism appeared to be the
substances’ ability to prevent amyloid precursor proteins from breaking up into
the smaller proteins called amyloid beta that gum up Alzheimer patients’
brains. In addition, the compounds appeared to reduce neuroinflammation and
oxidative stress in the brain—key aspects of Alzheimer’s pathology in humans.

Town said he and his lab will continue exploring
combination treatment, with a focus on plant-derived substances that inhibit
production of the sticky amyloid beta plaques.

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