American researchers claim that betanin, a natural pigment contained in beetroot (Beta vulgaris) or beetroot, may contribute to slowing protein accumulation in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
The University of South Florida team, presented evidence at the American Chemical Society‘s 255th National Conference/Exposition in New Orleans that betanin can act as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the researchers, this is the first step in an effort to encourage worldwide research to look for betanin-like structures that could be used in the development of drugs that will make life easier for patients.
Worldwide, efforts are being made to understand the causes of this neurodegenerative and irreversible disease. So far it has been established that the protein beta-amyloid that accumulates in the brain disrupts communication between neurons. Part of the damage is caused when beta-amyloid is attached to trace metals, such as iron and copper. The latter cause beta-amyloid peptides to misfold and tangle together, promoting inflammation and oxidation in neurons and ultimately leading to their death.
Previous research has shown that beetroot juice can improve oxygen flow to the aging brain and possibly improve its cognitive function. Based on this, the University of South Florida researchers wanted to see if betanin could block the effects of copper on beta-amyloid and thus prevent peptide misfolding and neuronal oxidation.
In a series of experiments using DTBC for oxidation recording and spectroscopy, they measured its oxidation response when exposed to beta-amyloid alone, when beta-amyloid was attached to copper, and when beta-amyloid attached to copper contained betanin. Beta-amyloid alone caused little or no oxidation in DTBC. But as the scientists expected, when it was attached to copper, it caused substantial oxidation to DTBC.
However, when betanin was added to the copper-beta-amyloid mixture, oxidation was reduced by up to 90%. This means that peptide misfolding was suppressed. We can’t say that betanin completely stops misfolding, but it does reduce oxidation. And less oxidation may to some extent prevent the misfolding of beta-amyloid peptides and perhaps prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers concluded.
Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Beetroots and beetroot juice have been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance. Beetroots are delicious raw but more frequently cooked or pickled. Their leaves — known as beet greens — can also be eaten.