If you are a lover of green tea, you have more reason to drink it as it may prevent dementia, a study at the Tufts University suggests.
Chemicals found in the herbal drink called catechins reduced plaques strongly linked to Alzheima’s disease in a lab study.
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.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It is characterized by a lack of communication among neurons in the brain, resulting in loss of function and cell death.
Catechins have antioxidant-like effects that help prevent cell damage and soothe inflammation in the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.
As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost, including memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason. The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.
Symptoms include severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places, and becoming anxious and frustrated over the inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behaviour among others.
In a brain afflicted with Alzheimer’s, abnormal levels of certain naturally occurring proteins clump together to form plaques that collect between neurons and disrupt cell function.
But catechins and resveratrol proved effective at reducing the formation of plaques in those neural cells. And they did so with few or no side effects.
Dr Dana Cairns, a research associate in the Tufts School of Engineering and leader of the study said: ‘We got lucky that some of these showed some pretty strong efficacy.
‘In the case of these compounds that passed the screening, they had virtually no plaques visible after about a week.’
The research team’s findings that point to the anti-plaque properties of commonly found compounds have the potential to benefit millions and build upon years of research into their therapeutic benefits.
Green tea and berries are rich in flavonoids, which can reduce cell-damaging free radicals and soothe inflammation in the brain and enhance brain blood flow.
The Tufts researchers’ findings do not say conclusively that the neuroprotective properties of the 21 compounds studied will help beat back the progression of dementia.
Some of the compounds studied, for instance, are not readily absorbed into the body or bloodstream. And some compounds were unable to permeate the blood-brain barrier, a barrier between the brain’s blood vessels and the cells and other components that make up brain tissue.
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