Beetroots could help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.
Betanin, which is a compound that gives the vegetable its distinctive red colour, may slow the accumulation of protein plaque tangles, which are associated with the condition, in the brain.
Study author Dr Li-June Ming, from the University of South Florida, said: ‘Our data suggest that betanin, a compound in beet extract, shows some promise as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain that are involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
‘This is just a first step, but we hope that our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin that could be used to synthesise drugs that could make life a bit easier for those who suffer from this disease.’
Alzheimer’s disease affects around 5.5 million people in the US and 850,000 in the UK. Most sufferers live just eight-to-10 years after their diagnosis.
Dementia cases, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disorder, are expected to treble globally by 2050.
Beetroots could help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests (stock)
IS THERE A PILL FOR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
A breakthrough Alzheimer’s drug edges scientists one step closer to a cure, new research suggested in November 2017.
Taken twice a day, a tablet, known as LMTX, significantly improves dementia sufferers’ brain injuries to the extent their MRI scans resemble those of healthy people after just nine months, a study found.
Lead author Professor Gordon Wilcock from the University of Oxford told MailOnline: ‘I haven’t seen such brain injury recovery before after a drug treatment.’
LMTX, which is under investigation, also significantly improves patients’ abilities to carry out everyday tasks such as bathing and dressing themselves, while also boosting their capabilities to correctly name objects and remember the date, the research adds.
The drug contains a chemical that dissolves protein ‘tangles’ in the brain that clump together to form plaques in the region associated with memory, according to its manufacturer TauRx Pharmaceuticals.
Dissolving these tangles and preventing the formation of new plaques may slow or even halt memory loss in dementia sufferers, the pharma company adds.
The researchers, from the universities of Oxford and Aberdeen, analysed 800 Alzheimer’s patients across 12 countries.
The study’s participants received either 100mg or 4mg LMTX tablets twice a day for 18 months.
They were tested on their ability to name objects, follow commands such as ‘make a fist’, recall items from a list of 10 and identify their name, the time and date.
Their ability to eat without help, use a telephone, wash and dress themselves, and control their bowel and bladder was also assessed.
MRI scans monitored the participants’ brain injury.
Compound in beetroot prevents incorrect protein folding
Study author Darrell Cole Cerrato said: ‘We can’t say that betanin stops the misfolding completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation.
‘Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides, which is believed to be the ultimate cause of Alzheimer’s.’
According to Professor Ming, brain damage occurs when proteins, known as beta-amyloids, attach themselves to metals, such as iron or copper.
These can cause the proteins to misfold and bind together in clumps that can promote inflammation and oxidation, a process similar to rusting, in nearby nerve cells, which eventually kills them.
Previous research suggests beetroot juice also improves oxygen flow to the ageing brain and may improve cognitive performance.
Brain ‘rusting’ reduced by up to 90%
The researchers analysed whether betanin blocks the effects of copper on beta-amyloid and, in turn, prevents damage.
They assessed the effects of DTBC, which tracks oxidation.
The scientists measured the reaction of DTBC when exposed to beta-amyloid only, beta-amyloid bound to copper and copper-bound beta-amyloid in a mixture containing betanin.
On its own, beta-amyloid caused little or no oxidation of DTBC.
Yet, as expected, beta-amyloid bound to copper led to substantial DTBC oxidation.
Yet when betanin was added to the copper-bound beta-amyloid mixture, the researchers found oxidation dropped by up to 90 per cent, suggesting less protein misfolding took place.
The findings was presented at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.
Alzheimer’s disease affects around 5.5 million people in the US and 850,000 in the UK (stock)
Alzheimer’s will be as manageable as HIV within 10 years
This comes after award-winning scientists predicted earlier this month Alzheimer’s will be as manageable as HIV within 10 years.
Future dementia treatments will be taken before the condition develops to prevent symptoms rather than attempting to reverse them, according to Professor Michel Goedert, who was involved in discovering the importance of protein plaques in Alzheimer’s onset.
Professor Goedert, from the University of Cambridge, added: ‘Alzheimer’s will become something like HIV.
‘It’s still there but it has been contained or whittled down by drug treatments.
‘It will disappear as a major problem from society.’