Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid peptide plaques and tau neurofibrils in neurons, producing alterations in the central nervous system such as impaired speech and motor functions, as well as loss of memory and brain mass. This disease is classified as a type of senile dementia.
Alzheimer's disease affects approximately sixty million people worldwide and is estimated to manifest itself predominantly in women over the age of sixty-five. In Mexico, about one million three hundred thousand people suffer from it, and it causes about two thousand deaths a year.
The cause of Alzheimer's disease is still unknown; however, risk factors have been detected through years of scientific and clinical research. For example, genetic susceptibility factors (family members who have suffered from it), advanced age (over sixty years old), exposure to toxic compounds, immune system diseases, oral and dental diseases, diabetes, smoking, and metabolic syndrome are some of the factors that may contribute to the development of this disease. Moreover, it has also been observed that some eating habits may represent a risk factor; fortunately, these can be modifiable.
The damage caused by Alzheimer's disease to the brain is due to the fact that it promotes the lack of communication between neurons as a consequence of the deposition of beta-amyloid peptides and tau neurofibrils, which are normally located in these cells and play important roles in their normal physiology. Current treatment includes the use of drugs and physical and social therapy, which helps to slow neurodegenerative progression (a decrease in nerve function).
However, several studies have shown that a diet rich in plant-based foods can also be of significant benefit. One of the factors that can promote the good condition of the brain is the consumption of a healthy diet rich in plant products. The consumption of some foods such as grapes and turmeric has been associated with benefits to the brain because they possess bioactive compounds, particularly phenolic compounds such as resveratrol and curcumin, which have protective effects.
Several studies have shown that these molecules prevent beta-amyloid and tau peptides from accumulating inside neurons, which prevents neuronal death. The benefits of consuming these foods and the molecules they contain are that they can reduce cognitive, behavioral, and motor deterioration during the course of the disease.
It is worth mentioning that it is of great importance to consume these foods from an early age and throughout life to generate favorable conditions in the body that help prevent the development of chronic degenerative diseases during old age, including dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease.
Authors: Francisco Jonathan Pérez Delgado, PhD student at CIAD; Marcelino Montiel Herrera, researcher at the Department of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Sonora, and J. Abraham Domínguez Ávila and Gustavo A. González Aguilar, researchers at the Laboratory of Antioxidants and Functional Foods of CIAD.