Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 29th 2013 Contents B36
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, May 29, 2013
A new study suggests a common baking spice
may hold promise for delaying or mitigating the
effects of Alzheimer s disease.
Despite years of research and investigation, no cure
has been found for Alzheimer s disease, the most
common form of progressive dementia.
However, two compounds found in cinnamon---
cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin---may be effective
in fighting the disease.
Graduate student Roshni George and Donald Graves,
PhD, scientists at University of California---Santa
Barbara, have published the results of their study in
the online edition of the Journal of Alzheimer s Dis-
George and Graves believe they have proof that
the compounds can prevent the development of the
filamentous "tangles" found in the brain cells that
characterise Alzheimer s.
Another factor to be considered is a protein called
tau which is responsible for the assembly of micro-
tubules in a cell influencing the structure of the neu-
rons, as well as their function.
"The problem with tau in Alzheimer s is that it
starts aggregating," said George. When the protein
does not bind properly to the microtubules that form
the cell s structure, it has a tendency to clump together,
she explained, forming insoluble fibres in the neu-
"The older we get the more susceptible we are to
these twists and tangles, and Alzheimer s patients
develop them more often and in larger amounts.
Researchers say the use of cinnamaldehyde, the
compound responsible for the bright, sweet smell of
cinnamon, has proven effective in preventing the tau
By protecting tau from oxidative stress, the com-
pound, an oil, could inhibit the protein s aggrega-
To do this, cinnamaldehyde binds to two residues
of an amino acid called cysteine on the tau protein.
The cysteine residues are vulnerable to modifications,
a factor that contributes to the development of
Graves gives the example of sunburn as a form of
oxidative damage. "If you wore a hat, you could
protect your face and head from the oxidation. In a
sense this cinnamaldehyde is like a cap."
While it can protect the tau protein by binding to
its vulnerable cysteine residues, it can also come off,
Graves added, which can ensure the proper func-
tioning of the protein.
Experts have known that oxidative stress is a major
factor to consider in the health of cells in general.
Through normal cellular processes, free radical-
generating substances like peroxides are formed, but
antioxidants in the cell work to neutralise them and
prevent oxidation. Under some conditions, however,
the scales are tipped, with increased production of
peroxides and free radicals, and decreased amounts
of antioxidants, leading to oxidative stress.
Epicatechin, which is also present in other foods,
such as blueberries, chocolate, and red wine, has
proven to be a powerful antioxidant.
Not only does it quench the burn of oxidation, it
is actually activated by oxidation so the compound
can interact with the cysteines on the tau protein in
a way similar to the protective action of cinnamalde-
"Cell membranes that are oxidised also produce
reactive derivatives, such as (the organic compound)
acrolein, that can damage the cysteines," said George.
"Epicatechin also sequesters those byproducts."
Oxidative damage is known to influence several
Studies indicate that there is a high correlation
between Type 2 diabetes and the incidence of
Alzheimer s disease. The elevated glucose levels typical
of diabetes lead to the overproduction of reactive
oxygen species, resulting in oxidative stress, which
is a common factor in both diabetes and Alzheimer s
Other research has shown cinnamon s beneficial
effects in managing blood glucose and other
problems associated with diabetes.
"Since tau is vulnerable to oxidative stress,
this study then asks whether Alzheimer s disease
could benefit from cinnamon, especially looking
at the potential of small compounds," said
Although this research shows promise, Graves
said, they are "still a long way from knowing
whether this will work in human beings." The
researchers caution against
ingesting more than the typical
amounts of cinnamon already
used in cooking.
Nevertheless, the potential for
cinnamon and its compounds to
impede Alzheimer s would be a
significant step forward in an effort
to control the disease.
As a major risk factor for the dis-
ease is age, the population shift of
aging baby boomers threatens to over-
whelm the healthcare system.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Study: Cinnamon may prevent Alzheimer's
Two compounds found in
epicatechin---may be effective in
fighting Alzheimer's disease.
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