Two compounds found in cinnamon—cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin—show promise in the fight with Alzheimer’s. Roshni George and Donald Graves, scientists from University of California, Santa Barbara, have identified the process by which the compounds prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells—something very typical in Alzheimer’s.
Cinnamaldehyde treatment is seen to be effective in preventing the knots or tangles, a kind of oxidative damage.
“Take, for example, sunburn, a form of oxidative damage,” said Graves, adjunct professor in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. “If you wore a hat, you could protect your face and head from the oxidation. In a sense, cinnamaldehyde is like a cap.” While it can protect the tau protein by binding to its vulnerable cysteine residues, it can also come off, Graves added, which can ensure the proper functioning of the protein.
Epicatechin, which is also present in other foods, such as blueberries, chocolate, and red wine, is observed to be a strong antioxidant having a protective action similar to cinnamaldehyde.
The research into how cinnamon and its compounds prevents Alzheimer’s has just begun and it is hoped that further research will prove the efficacy of the compounds.
“Wouldn’t it be interesting if a small molecule from a spice could help?” commented Graves, “perhaps prevent it, or slow down the progression.”