Cinnamon extract may help prevent Alzheimer'sEffective on mice
A substance found in cinnamon bark may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.
The extract, called CEppt, was found to inhibit the formation of amyloid plaques in mice and also prevented the plaques from killing brain cells.
The formation and build up of amyloid plaques in the brain is one of the key features of Alzheimer's disease, which affects around 500,000 people in the UK.
The team of scientists from Tel Aviv University added the cinnamon bark extract to the drinking water of mice which had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's disease at a young age.
After four months, the researchers said the development of Alzheimer's in the treated mice had "slowed remarkably," and they had a similar life-span to mice without the disease.
The extract inhibits the formation of toxic amyloid polypeptide oligomers and fibrils which make up the deposits of plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, said Professor Michael Ovadia, who led the study.
The extract was also found to break up amyloid fibres, similar to those which collect in the brain and kill neurons, in test tube experiments carried out in the laboratory.
According to Prof Ovadia, this finding suggests that the cinnamon bark extract may not just inhibit the development of Alzheimer's disease, but may also help to treat it. More work needs to be done in the future to achieve similar results in animals, he added.
The scientists were inspired to investigate the medicinal properties of cinnamon by a passage in the Bible which describes high priests using a holy ointment containing the spice. Presumably this was meant to protect them from infectious diseases during sacrifices.
Before rushing out to buy the popular spice, the scientists warned that people would need to consume more than 10g of raw cinnamon a day, to reap any therapeutic benefits. However, consuming this amount of raw cinnamon can be dangerous as the spice also contains substances that are toxic to the liver.
The answer to this would be to extract and purify the active substance, the Prof Ovadia said.
"The discovery is extremely exciting. While there are companies developing synthetic AD inhibiting substances, our extract would not be a drug with side effects, but a safe, natural substance that human beings have been consuming for millennia," he added.
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: "This research is in the early stages and looked at mice not humans.
"We are therefore a long way from using cinnamon in the fight against Alzheimer’s. We need greater investment in dementia research to help us translate potential opportunities like this into effective treatments for people living with this devastating condition."
The study is published in the journal PLoS ONE.
This article was published on Wed 29 June 2011
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