Memory protectors

Black currants may help ward off Alzheimer’s

Compounds found in black currants may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, according to a Tufts study published in the January issue of Chemistry & Industry magazine.

Researchers found that these compounds—anthocyanins and polyphenolics—had a strong protective effect in cultured neuronal cells. Darker black currants contain more anthocyanins and are likely to be more potent.

“These compounds also work in hippocampal cells taken straight from the brain,” said James Joseph, director of the Neuroscience Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts. (The brain’s hippocampus structure is critical to spatial learning and awareness, navigation and episodic and event memory.) Joseph said these protective effects will likely be reproduced in the human body and that these compounds may prevent or significantly delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

While previous research found that compounds in black currants acted as antioxidants, this is the first study to demonstrate that they may help protect brain cells. Exactly how they do that remains unclear.

“We have evidence that the compounds protect against Alzheimer’s by influencing the early gene expression in learning and memory, which influences cell signaling pathways that help neuronal cells communicate with each other,” Joseph said.