Alzheimer’s disease: The aromatic herb that may halt cognitive decline – new study

Alzheimer's: Dr Chris discusses the early signs of condition

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Globally, it is estimated that the number of people living with dementia could exceed 130 million by 2050. Now, recent Investigations have suggested up to 90 percent of people with dementia have not yet been diagnosed, meaning more than 41 million people living with the disease are not aware they have it. One recent study, however, has suggested that the rate of cognitive decline could be slowed by consuming an aromatic herb found in many kitchens.

Researchers have discovered that the natural compound Fenchol, abundant in basil leaves, could help protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.

Published in Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience, the study determined that fenchol reduced neurotoxicity in the Alzheimer’s brain.

Researchers at the University of South Florida believe these effects are down to sensing mechanisms associated with the gut microbiome.

Professor Hariom Yadav, who led the study, investigated molecular interactions between the brain and gut to determine this might influence brain health and cognitive decline.

READ MORE: Dementia: An early warning sign of Alzheimer’s that is not memory loss

At the start of their analysis, the team discovered that the FFAR2 receptor – or free fatty acid receptor 2 – is activated by short-chain fatty acids derived from the gut.

There is mounting evidence that short-chain fatty acids play a key role in maintaining brain health.

A string of studies had previously shown that reserves of these metabolites are often depleted in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

The study departed from the realisation that inhibiting the FFAR2 receptor contributed to the build-up of toxic beta-amyloid compounds in the brain.

The researchers wanted to find natural compounds that could counter these effects by stimulating the FFAR2 receptor.

Yadav said: “Our study is the first to discover that stimulation of the FFAR2 sensing mechanism by these microbial metabolites can be beneficial in protecting brain cells against the toxic accumulation of the amyloid-beta protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”

A total of 144,000 natural compounds were screened.

The sample was thereafter whittled down to 15 compound candidates.

The team found that fenchol, the plant-derived compound that gives basil its aromatic scent, was best at stimulating the FFRAR2 receptor.

Further experiments on humans and mice demonstrated that fenchol significantly reduced the risk of amyloid plaque in the brain and the death of neutrons by stimulating FFAR2 signalling.

The presence of clumps of amyloid beta cells is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, individuals predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease produce too much amyloid.

Once deposited in the brain, amyloid causes tangles of another toxic protein called tau, which leads to neuronal death, which causes memory loss.

Upon closer examination, researchers observed that fenchol decreased brain cells dubbed “zombie cells” which are also commonly found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

Zombie cells, which die slowly, build up in ageing organs creating a damaging inflammatory environment.

The team have called for further investigations examining whether fenchol consumed in basil leaf directly will be more or less effective than administered the compound in a pill.

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