Alzheimer’s disease remains a major public health concern, with nearly 5.5 million Americans affected and even more suffering from the illness worldwide.
With the disease making such a huge impact both nationally and internationally, scientists have turned to examining the properties of common foods for potential therapeutic benefits.
Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have discovered that a compound commonly found in green tea can, when combined with exercise, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice – and possibly even reverse some of the effects(1).
How It Works
The brains of people affected by Alzheimer’s are often characterized by the presence of amyloid plaques, caused by amyloid-beta peptide, or A-beta, which can accumulate and clump together in the brain.
Inflammation has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and several recent studies have found that dietary antioxidants and anti-inflammatories can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s(2).
Working off this previous research, the scientists at the University of Missouri decided to look into the effects of a common green tea extract known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or ECGC, and voluntary exercise on memory function and A-beta levels in mice affected by Alzheimer’s.
Using simple memory “games” like specialized mazes to test the working memory of the mice, the research team studied the behaviour of mice which were exhibiting Alzheimer’s symptoms both before and after the administration of EGCG in drinking water, and giving the mice access to a running wheel. The improvements they saw were “remarkable”.
“Oral administration of the extract, as well as voluntary exercise, improved some of the behavioural manifestations and cognitive impairments of Alzheimer’s,” said Grace Sun, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Program at the University of Missouri and one of the researchers on the study.
“We also are excited to see a decrease in A-beta levels in the brains of the affected mice as well as improvements in behaviour deficits in mice with (Alzheimer’s disease)”(3).
Drawing On Ancient Knowledge
Sun says that the use of natural products as potential preventative medicine – and for the treatment of diseases – is ancient.
The use of so-called “neutraceuticals” is certainly widespread throughout the world, based on uses of natural remedies that often go back thousands of years.
With this in mind, University of Missouri researchers are planning on continuing their focus on green tea extract and other such natural remedies, exploring the science behind these age-old techniques.
This isn’t the first time exercise has been linked to better cognition in Alzheimer’s patients – studies going back as far as 2006 have made the connection between voluntary exercise and improved cognitive function for those with the disease(4).
This study is unique, however, in that it looks specifically at the combination of a natural extract with regular voluntary exercise.