Scientists have discovered more about how pomegranates may shield us from Alzheimer’s disease. Bacteria in our gut may be key to the fruit’s protective powers—yet another revelation about the vital gut-brain axis.
In Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid proteins in the brain form clumps. To fight the clumping, a compound needs to have molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier to do their work. Previous research showed that pomegranate extract had anti-Alzheimer’s effects, but didn’t identify the compounds that made it through the barrier. Scientists designed the recent study to try to determine which compounds were the barrier-crossers, according to a release about the work from the American Chemical Society. The research appeared in the American Chemical Society’s journal Chemical Neuroscience. Sciencedaily.com also noted the results.
The team of researchers isolated and identified 21 compounds, mostly polyphenols, from pomegrantate extract. Computational studies found that polyphenols can’t cross the blood-brain barrier; however, a compound that’s formed when a certain type of pomegranate polyphenol is metabolized by bacteria in our gut can. Called urolithins, they not only can cross the barrier into the brain, but they can also reduce the protein clumping, at least in vitro. The urolithins also increased the lifespan of an Alzheimer’s roundworm model. Next step: test the model in humans.
Pomegranates are one of the oldest cultivated fruits. Walnuts, also cultivated for thousands of years, may also have neuroprotective powers. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests the nuts may delay the onset and slow the progression or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.