According to new research, a vegetable compound contained in beetroots could be the key to creating new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Betanin, which gives beetroot its trademark dark red colour, was found to suppress chemical changes linked to the death of neurons. Scientists believe new drugs can be developed based on this compound, theoretically slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
“Our data suggest that betanin, a compound in beet extract, shows some promise as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain that are involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says lead scientist Professor Li-June Ming, from the University of South Florida.
“This is just a first step, but we hope that our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin that could be used to synthesise drugs that could make life a bit easier for those who suffer from this disease.”
Related: The Benefits of Beets
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s found in the brains of sufferers are protein building blocks that’ve accumulated, called beta-amyloid. When this peptide attaches to metals like iron and copper, it misfolds and binds together in clumps, leading to inflammation and oxidation – or, the ‘rusting’ and death of nerve cells.
In the lab trials, betanin added to a copper-bound beta-amyloid mixture reduced a measure of oxidation by 90%. The groundbreaking result suggests that misfolding of the peptide was being suppressed.
“We can’t say that betanin stops the misfolding completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation,” explains co-author Darrell Cerrato, also from the University of South Florida.
“Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides, which is believed to be the ultimate cause of Alzheimer’s.”
The findings were presented at the 255th national meeting of the American Chemical society in New Orleans.
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