Food and Behaviour Research

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Therapeutic Potential of Dietary Polyphenols against Brain Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disorders

Scapagnini G, Caruso C, Calabrese V. (2011) Adv Exp Med Biol.  698: 27-35. 

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In recent years there has been a growing interest, supported by a large number of experimental and epidemiological studies, in the beneficial effects of some commonly used food-derived products in preventing various age-related pathologic conditions, ranging from cancer to neurodegenerative diseases.

Spices and herbs often contain active phenolic substances endowed with potent antioxidative and chemopreventive properties. Curcumin is a phytochemical compound extracted from the rhizome of Curcuma Longa. It is the pigment responsible for the characteristic yellow color of Indian curry.

Data from our and other laboratories demonstrated that curcumin, as well as some other polyphenols, strongly induce heme oxygenase 1 and Phase II detoxification enzymes in neurons and, by this activation, protect neurons against different modes of oxidative challenge.

The potential role of curcumin as a preventive agent against brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders has been recently reinforced by epidemiological studies showing that in India, where this spice is widely used in the daily diet, there is a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease than in the USA.

These studies identify a novel class of compounds that could be used for therapeutic purposes as preventive agents against the acute neurodegenerative conditions that affect many in the world's increasingly ageing population.