Mercedes Unzeta, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) claims that the study showed that mice fed a diet based on polyphenols and fatty acids, when compared to those in the control group, had more cell growth in the olfactory bulb and the hippocampus, both of which are damaged in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers maintain that their results show that the diet is capable of inducing the generation of new cells in the adult brain, and of strengthening the neural networks which become affected with age and in neurogenerative processes such as Alzheimer's disease, as well as protecting neurons from oxidative and neural damage, which they say have been associated with many diseases affecting the central nervous system.
The team claims the results give support to the hypothesis that a diet made up of foods rich in polyphenols such as grapes, olive oil, cocoa, nuts as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids from oily fish and vegetables such as corn and soya beans could delay the onset of this disease or even slow down its evolution.
The study will be published in next month’s issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Currently, about 12 million people in the US plus the EU suffer from Alzheimer's, with some estimates predicting this figure will have tripled by 2050.
The direct and indirect cost of Alzheimer care is over $100bn (€ 81bn) in the US alone. The direct cost of Alzheimer care in the UK was estimated at £15bn (€ 22bn).
The UAB researchers said that the main objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of a polyphenol and fatty acid enriched diet on the neurogenesis of the brain of an adult mouse.
They said that they used two groups of mice for the study, with one being given a normal diet the other was given the same diet enriched with a cream (LMN) composed of a mixture of natural products including dried fruit and nuts, coconut, vegetable oils and flour rich in soluble fibre, which they said was developed by the Tarragona based company La Morella Nuts.
Both groups were fed over a duration of 40 days, which the authors claim is equivalent to approximately five years in humans.
And biochemical and molecular analysis techniques were used to detect different neuronal markers, claim the team.
“The analyses carried out in different brain regions demonstrated that those fed with LMN cream had a significantly higher amount of stem cells, as well as new differentiated cells, in the olfactory bulb and hippocampus,” said the researchers.
The second objective, they explained, was to verify if the LMN cream could prevent damage caused by oxidation or neural death in cell cultures.
According to the researchers, cultures of the hippocampal and cortical cells were pretreated with LMN cream. After causing oxidative damage with hydrogen peroxide, which killed 40 per cent of the cells, the scientists observed that a pretreatment with LMN cream was capable of diminishing, and in some cases completely preventing, oxidative damage.
The authors said that the hippocampal and cortical cells were also damaged using amyloid beta (anomalous deposits of this protein are related to Alzheimer's disease), and the results obtained here were similar to those obtained using hydrogen peroxide, they added.
The study forms part of the four year long CENIT project which involves nine different companies, four universities and two research centres with the objective of developing methodologies for the design, evaluation and verification of functional foods which may protect against cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer's disease.
Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Published online ahead of print
Title: A Diet Enriched in Polyphenols and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, LMN Diet, Induces Neurogenesis in the Subventricular Zone and Hippocampus of Adult Mouse Brain
Authors: T Valente, J Hidalgo, I Bolea, B Ramirez, N Anglés, J Reguant, J R Morelló, C Gutiérrez, M Boada, M Unzeta