Take, for example, conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. Challenging to treat and prevent, they’ve left researchers stumped in many ways. While pharmaceutical companies work around the clock to develop the latest and greatest drug, other researchers are finding that a simple plant compound could make all the difference in the world.
Inspired by previous research which revealed that flavonoids have a positive effect on learning and memory, Brazilian researchers have demonstrated that the flavonoid apigenin can improve the formation of neurons and strengthen the connections between brain cells.
When they applied apigenin to human stem cells in a lab, neurons formed in less than a month – something that would not have happened without apigenin. On top of that, these neurons formed stronger and more sophisticated communications between one another. This is essential for brain health in general, and learning and memory in particular. Their findings were published in the journal Advances in Regenerative Biology.
One area where this could prove useful is as an alternative to estrogen-based therapies. This hormone group can delay the onset of neurogenerative and psychiatric disorders, but such therapies can also raise a person’s risk of cardiovascular issues as well as estrogen-dependent tumors. Apigenin could be a viable alternative as it binds to estrogen receptors, which are known to impact the function, plasticity, maturation and development of the nervous system. This could give sufferers of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia a safer treatment option.
Studies have also shown that apigenin can slow the proliferation of cancer cells and promote cell death. It stops the growth of blood vessels that tumors need to thrive, depriving them of oxygen, blood and nutrients. In addition, it can decrease inflammation and reduce elevated blood sugar. As you can see, its protective effects on the brain are only part of the story.
Does this mean that increasing your flavonoid intake could have a positive impact on conditions like Parkinson’s disease and your brain health in general right now? The Brazilian study’s lead author, neuroscientist Stevens K. Rehen, said: "Moreover, flavonoids are present at high amounts in some foods and we can speculate that a diet rich in flavonoids may influence the formation of neurons and the way they communicate within the brain."
Thankfully, it’s easy to get flavonoids and apigenin from many common foods. You can find apigenin in lots of fruits and vegetables, but some of the best sources are chamomile, celery, thyme and parsley. You can also find it in fruits like cherries and grapes. Apigenin supplements are available, but getting it from natural sources is ideal as they contain chemical constituents that enhance its powers. Other foods that have a high content of flavonoids in general are onions, berries, red wine, and dark chocolate. Black, green and oolong teas are also good choices.
Scientists who look back to nature are increasingly being rewarded with incredible discoveries like this, and everyone who wants to protect the health of their brain can benefit from eating the right organic, natural, flavonoid-rich foods.
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