A strawberry a day keeps the doctor away? A new study has demonstrated the possibility that a compound found in strawberries may be effective in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Further research will still need to be performed to confirm its effectiveness and especially whether it defends against Alzheimer’s in human beings, but if initial studies are confirmed it could open up new windows into preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Fisetin – Found in Fruits and Vegetables
The compound is called fisetin, a polyphenol that acts as a coloring agent in many plants, fruits, and vegetables. In addition to being found in strawberries, it can also be found in apples, grapes, persimmons, and cucumbers. It can be extracted from fruit and added to various food products, and is also available for sale as a supplement.
Initial studies were performed in mice which modeled Alzheimer’s disease. The first experiments were peformed on mice that exhibited signs of familial Alzheimer’s disease, in which Alzheimer’s is a hereditary condition. Those studies indicated that fisetin was effective in reducing memory loss in those mice. Unfortunately, familial Alzheimer’s is responsible for only about three percent of all human Alzheimer’s cases, so the results weren’t terribly helpful.
Sporadic Alzheimer’s the Greatest Threat
Most Alzheimer’s cases are sporadic Alzheimer’s, in which the disease presents itself but no firm cause can be found. It is most often associated with older patients who develop memory loss. To test fisetin’s effects against sporadic Alzheimer’s, researchers used mice that had been genetically engineered to age prematurely, thus providing a model of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers split the mice into two groups, one which was fed a fisetin supplement daily, the other which was not. Both groups were monitored for signs of cognitive decline, stress, and inflammation. The researchers discovered that the mice who did not receive fisetin performed significantly worse on cognitive tests than mice who had received the fisetin, and also showed markedly higher levels of stress and inflammation. In fact, the mice who received the fisetin had similar cognitive function to much younger mice.
The results of the study have led researchers to speculate that fisetin could help lead to a new strategy of fighing Alzheimer’s. Obviously mice are not human, so studies done on mice won’t necessarily translate to human subjects, but fisetin does show some promise. If studies on human subjects are successful, fisetin could be used to combat not only Alzheimer’s but also other effects of human aging.
As people continue to live longer and longer lives, age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s are becoming more prevalent, possibly through more precise diagnosis. The effects of chronic stress and inflammation are also now becoming more and more widely recognized. Hopefully continued study will lead to more and increasingly effective preventative remedies.