Green tea extract may interfere with the formation of abnormal clumps or plaques in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A team of scientists led by Mi Hee Lim at the University of Michigan said that the green tea extract is a powerful anti-oxidant. She added, “A lot of people are very excited by this molecule.”
Her study, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the green tea extract could interfere with the formation of the harmful clumps in the lab, but she said it was just the beginning. Her next step will be to test the extract in fruit flies.
Last month, Dan Goldberg for The Star-Ledger reported on a different study performed by scientists in the UK’s University of Leeds. Their research found two different chemicals that might interfere with the formation of the plaques that appear to clog the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. One of the chemicals that worked in their study was indeed green tea extract.
The other chemical, which might be more fun to imbibe, was resveratrol, found in red wine. Goldbert explained that “Alzheimer’s disease progresses because amyloid protein in the brain clumps together and attaches to the surface of nerve cells, causing them to degenerate and die.” The particular anti-oxidants found in red wine and green tea seem to prevent the misfoldings of molecules that allow the disease to progress.
Although it’s always fun to look for a reason to take a break to sip some green tea (or wine), the issue is a serious one. As Megan Greenlaw recently reported, experts believe that the number of Alzheimer’s disease patients could triple by 2050.
In the past, people have tried some ineffective methods for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Alz.Org, the Alzheimer’s Organization website, still has to debunk an old, disproven theory that the disease is caused by cooking with aluminum pots or drinking soda from aluminum cans. More recently, Megan Charles reported on new research that showed that some anti-oxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin E did nothing to ward off the disease.
So far, though, the research on green tea extract is showing a lot of promise.