Over 6 million U.S. residents have Alzheimer's disease, with the prevalence of the degenerative condition increasing 145% between 2000 and 2019 alone, according to the Alzheimer's Association. While there's no definitive cure for Alzheimer's, which affects one in nine adults over 65, a new study suggests that one popular herb could help fend off the devastating condition... basil.
A new study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience reveals that fenchol, a naturally occurring compound found in basil, may have a protective effect against Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers from the University of South Florida Health (USF Health) found that among a group of 15 compounds studied, fenchol was the most effective at binding to and activating cell-signaling molecule free fatty acid receptor 2 (FFAR2), which is expressed on neurons in the brain. In animal models, fenchol was found to increase FFAR2 signaling, thus reducing levels of amyloid-beta, a protein linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease, lowering rates of neuron death, and reducing the number of senescent neuronal cells, AKA "zombie" cells, which are frequently found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.
"Fenchol actually affects the two related mechanisms of senescence and proteolysis," explained the study's lead author Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery and brain repair at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, in a statement. "It reduces the formation of half-dead zombie neuronal cells and also increases the degradation of (nonfunctioning) amyloid-beta, so that amyloid protein is cleared from the brain much faster."
However, that doesn't mean you should start planning your entire menu around pesto and Caprese salads just yet. Yadav's team says that more research is required to determine the most effective way to deliver doses of fenchol to those seeking protection against cognitive decline.
"We also want to know whether a potent dose of either basil or fenchol would be a quicker way to get the compound into the brain," Yadav explained.
For now, however, it certainly doesn't hurt to enjoy some basil with your meals if you want a bit of a brain boost-the results of a study published in Ancient Science of Life found that mice given basil extract showed improved memory retention, suggesting potential applications for human health, as well.
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