First they examined the possible cause of the condition. Although it’s unknown, doctors have previously pinpointed beta-amyloid, a sticky protein that can disrupt communication between the brain cells and neurons. When it clings to metals, such as copper or iron, the beta-amyloid peptides misfold and clump together, causing inflammation and oxidation.
Therefore, the scientists targeted foods known to improve oxygen flow and cognitive functions, including beets. The purple veggie has a compound called betanin that binds to metals, which could prevent the misfold of the peptides.
To test their hypothesis, the scientists measured oxidation levels of the beta-amyloid when it was mixed with a betanin mixture, and they found that oxidation decreased by up to 90 percent exposed to the beet compound.
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“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,” coauthor Li-June Ming said in a statement.
While they’re unsure if betanin can completely stop misfolding, they said it certainly reduces oxidation. With their results, they believe they can help develop medicine that will alleviate some of the long-term effects of Alzheimer’s.
“This is just a first step,” Ming said, “but we hope that our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin that could be used to synthesize drugs that could make life a bit easier for those who suffer from this disease.”
The researchers plan to present their study at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society this week.
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