Fresh Juices May Help Prevent Alzheimer's

Fresh Juices May Help Prevent Alzheimer's
New research suggests that regular consumption of fruit and vegetable juices may help protect you against cognitive decline and the incursion of Alzheimer’s disease.

If a glass of orange juice is part of your morning breakfast ritual then you may be doing your aging brain a big favor.

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease looms as a possibility thanks to a breakthrough discovery that identifies fruit and vegetable juices as key inhibitors of the chemical processes that destroy the cognitive function of at least one in every four people above the age of 85.

A 10-year study of 2,000 subjects in the United States determined that those who drank fruit and vegetable juices more than three times per week were 76 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank juices less than once per week.

“Drinking fruit and vegetable juices frequently may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly among those who are at high risk for the disease,” says Dr. Qi Dai, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee, and leader of the research team responsible for the discovery.

“Our new findings are promising, but have to be confirmed in future clinical trials. However, it is important for general health that the food-pyramid guidelines of five servings of fruits or

orange juice, fresh orange juice, healthy orange juice
vegetables per day are met. Fruit and vegetable juices fall into this category. Therefore, adding one glass of fruit and vegetable juice to a diet is recommended.”

Recent studies of Alzheimer’s disease biochemistry have focused on the accumulation of beta-amyloid peptide in the brain, and the role hydrogen peroxide plays in the development of these destructive clumps. Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical, one apparently sensitive to antioxidants. In the past, researchers hypothesized that high intakes of antioxidant vitamins (C, E and beta-carotene) might provide some protection against Alzheimer’s disease, but recent clinical studies have not supported this theory.

“We thought that the underlying components in the fruits and vegetables may not be vitamins, that there was possibly something else,” explains Dr. Dai. “We suspect that another class of antioxidant chemicals, known as polyphenols, could play a role.”

Polyphenols are non-vitamin antioxidants common to most diets and particularly abundant in teas, juices and wines. Most polyphenols exist primarily in the skins and peels of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, either peeling or cooking may result in their loss.

On the upside, a number of studies found fruit and vegetable juices to be rich in antioxidant polyphenols. Animal studies and cell-culture studies confirmed that some polyphenols from juices combat hydrogen peroxide more effectively than vitamins, a key finding.

Since hydrogen peroxide may be an enabling factor in the development of Alzheimer’s, researchers like Dr. Dai theorized that polyphenols should provide some protection against dementia.

“We do not know if it is a specific type of juice that reduces risk,” comments Dr. Dai. “That information was not collected in the current study. But we can use blood samples collected from the participants to narrow down the kinds of juices. The next step is to test the subjects’ blood samples to see if elevated levels of polyphenols rich in major juices are related to the reduced risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. This would provide further evidence of the role of juice polyphenols in Alzheimer’s disease risk. It also may point to the types of juice that would be most beneficial. We do not know whether juices high in pulp have more or less polyphenols.”

The logic of this line of research is compelling, for all the evidence points to diet as a potentially crucial element in the Alzheimer’s equation.

Antioxidants derived from fresh fruit and vegetables neutralize free radicals, damaging compounds that appear naturally in the body, but are also produced by environmental factors such as pollution and cigarette smoke.

These compounds are not only associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but cancer and heart disease as well. Reduced blood supply to the brain is considered a factor in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, underscoring the need for good vascular health.

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in fat helps prevent clogging of the arteries.

Published findings suggest a healthy diet can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 40 per cent. The Mediterranean diet is the one most favored by researchers—and featuring:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Limited servings of meat and dairy products.
  • Olive oil, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and particulairly high in polyphenols.

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Updated November 2013