The common baking spice cinnamon may hold the key to delaying the onset of – or warding off – the effects of Alzheimer’s disease,scientists,including one of Indian-origin,have found.
Roshni George and Donald Graves,scientists at University of California – Santa Barbara,found that two compounds in cinnamon – cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin – show some promise in the effort to fight the disease.
According to George and Graves,the compounds have been shown to prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells that characterise Alzheimer’s.
Responsible for the assembly of microtubules in a cell,a protein called tau plays a large role in the structure of the neurons,as well as their function.
“The problem with tau in Alzheimer’s is that it starts aggregating,” said George,a graduate student researcher.
When for 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 neuron.
The older we get the more susceptible we are to these twists and tangles,Alzheimer’s patients develop them more often and in larger amounts.
The use of cinnamaldehyde,the compound responsible for the bright,sweet smell of cinnamon,has proven effective in preventing the tau knots.
By protecting tau from oxidative stress,the compound,an oil,could inhibit the protein’s aggregation. 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 Alzheimer’s.
Previous research indicates 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 disease.
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 George.
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.
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.