A new study has found that some of the most popular fruits, including bananas, apples, and oranges all contain antioxidants that reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York tested phenolic phytochemicals derived from bananas, oranges, and apples on neuron cells. The researchers found that all three of the fruits protected the neuron cells from oxidative stress and prevented neurotoxicity. Apples were found to have the highest levels of beneficial antioxidants.
The authors reported that “Our study demonstrated that antioxidants in the major fresh fruits consumed in the United States and Korea protected neuronal cells from oxidative stress.”
Oxidation is caused by free radicals which are highly reactive molecules that have unpaired electrons in their outer ring. These free radicals “steal” electrons from cells in the body (which are made up of molecules) which in turn causes that molecule to become a free radical itself. Antioxidants help prevent this process because they do not themselves turn into free radicals when a free radical steals an electron, thus helping reduce the number of free radicals present in the body.
In Alzheimer’s disease ,free radicals are believed to damage brain cells and lower levels of a chemical known as acetylcholine which helps transmit impulses throughout the brain. Low acetylcholine levels are often found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
More than one in seven people over the age of 70, and one in two people over the age of 85 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. With the number of people living past 80 increasing dramatically in the western world, in the absence of a cure dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease are expected to become an increasingly important health problem.
The study appears in the December 1 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
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