EGCG, the major polyphenol in green tea, may play a role in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Preclinical evidence suggests that EGCG “interferes with the formation of toxic assemblies (oligomers), one of the prime suspects in the early steps of the molecular cascade that leads to cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients,” the university reports.
Giuseppe Melacini, lead author and a professor in the departments of chemistry, chemical biology, biochemistry, and biomedical sciences at McMaster, said that “at the molecular level, we believe EGCG coats toxic oligomers and changes their ability to grow and interact with healthy cells.”
The findings are the results of a decade of advancements in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methodology, according to the researchers; the study is featured in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
“We all know that currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s once symptoms emerge, so our best hope is early intervention. That could mean using green tea extracts or their derivatives early on, say 15 to 25 years before any symptoms ever set in,” Melacini stated.
Food additives could prove crucial in the prevention or cure of the disease, said Melacini, who has worked on Alzheimer’s-related research for 15 years. “It will be important to capitalize on them early in life to increase the odds of healthy aging, in addition to exercise and a healthy lifestyle.”
Researchers next hope to tackle problems such as how to modify EGCG and similar molecules so they can be used effectively as a food additive, according to the university researchers, who noted that EGCG is difficult to deliver into the human body, particularly the brain.
About 47 million people worldwide have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year, according to the World Health Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60 to 70 percent of cases.