The accumulation of amino acids, known as amyloid beta in the brain has been dubbed one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
Larger clusters of these amyloid beta are called beta-amyloid plaques, which eventually disrupt neuron signalling in the brain. This leads to the collapse of memory, personality and ‘normal’ everyday behaviour in an Alzheimer sufferer. Additionally, beta-amyloid plaques trigger the body’s inflammatory response, further encouraging the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Why a beetroot?
So where does the humble beetroot come in and how does it work to slow the progression of a disease such as Alzheimer’s? The answer lies in this root vegetable’s iconic pigmentation.
Researchers at the University of South Florida recently embarked on an experiment to test a particular compound found within beetroot pigmentation, known as betanin. This is the compound which gives beetroot its distinctive, dark red pigment.
During their experiment, researchers discovered that the betanin compound positively reacts with amyloid beta. Ultimately, this works to prevent the process of oxidation in the brain which is associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Understanding the workings of betanin
Betanin as a compound is known as a forager of reactive oxygen, working to defend against oxidative stress. Basically, betanin works to protect against DNA damage, oxidation in the brain and body while simultaneously lowering blood pressure levels.
Beetroot’s betanin compounds not only help to lower blood pressure, but also help to increase blood flow to the brain and increase the body’s oxygen circulation. Based on this, researchers have begun working on a hypothesis that betanin helps to prevent the clustering of amyloid beta in the brain, which ultimately leads to the progression of Alzheimer’s.
During thorough experimentation, researchers noted that the addition of betanin to a chemical compound mix of zinc and copper worked to reduce oxidation in the brain by up to 90%. As such, researchers are now working to include beetroot-derived compounds into modern-day Alzheimer’s medication as an inhibitor of the progression of the disease.
What lies ahead?
Despite these positive findings, researchers have expressed that the development of these new medications is by no means a ‘cure’ for Alzheimer’s patients. However, they do offer hope in inhibiting the further progression of the disease.
They have surmised that the introduction of betanin to the diet of an Alzheimer’s patient, whether through nutrition, medication or a combination of both, holds the potential to stagnate the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. A diet rich in beetroot can be amazingly colourful, tasty and healthy and this humble vegetable can be introduced in a number of exciting recipes.