British scientists are investigating how blackcurrants may hold the key in helping slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
The Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) is working on a European Union-funded project that is trying to identify bio-active compounds in blackcurrants that are thought to be capable of reducing the advancement of Alzheimer’s. The SCRI is one of the UK’s leading institutes for research on plants and their interactions with the environment, particularly in managed eco-systems as well as a leader in the elucidation of the chemical, biochemical and genetic bases of quality and bioactivity in plant-derived foods and products.
The three-year initiative is looking at the natural compounds present in whole blackcurrant fruit as well as blackcurrant extracts obtained throughout the processing chain. It is these natural compounds which are thought to possess properties that protect the brain and aid in the treatment of dementia.
The project is examining cost-effective methods of extracting the compounds and how they can be developed into new functional food ingredients. The SCRI’s role will be to use their expertise in blackcurrant research to identify the active components and to aid in optimising their extraction from the fruit. The consortium will also help formulate the best-performing blackcurrant components into products suitable for human use.
Although the precise mechanisms of Alzheimer’s are not yet fully understood, significant scientific evidence suggests that brains suffering from the disease are characterised by intense oxidative stress. Recent epidemiological and experimental data suggests that diets containing various natural polyphenol compounds, with their associated high antioxidant capacity, can reduce the risk of the development of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative neurological conditions. In particular, fruit juices including blackcurrant have recently been shown to have strong neuroprotective activity in model systems.
Dr Derek Stewart of the SCRI commented: “This initiative is exciting in that we are truly maximising the potential of blackcurrants by looking at ways of utilising all of the blackcurrant fruit not only the juice. Dementia is a massively under-funded area, so any exploration relating to Alzheimer’s is a step in the right direction.”
Dr Susanne Sorensen, Head of Research at the Alzheimer's Society said: “We know that eating a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables and oily fish is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. Early research also suggests that certain compounds in blackcurrants may be particularly helpful in reducing your risk. However, it is too early to say how beneficial these compounds are in the fight against dementia and we look forward to the results from further research. One million people will develop dementia in the next ten years, yet research is desperately underfunded. We must act now.”