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An apple a day prevents brain-cell damage

An apple may supply major bioactive compounds, which reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders.

STUDIES SHOW that the chemical quercetin, a so-called phytonutrient, appears to be largely responsible for protecting rat brain cells when assaulted by oxidative stress in laboratory tests.

Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients, such as phenolic acids and flavanoids, protect the apple against bacteria, viruses and fungi and provide the fruit's anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits.

This group of chemicals in apples could protect the brain from the type of damage that triggers such neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinsonism, according to two new studies from Cornell University food scientists.

Quercetin is a major flavanoid in apples. Antioxidants help prevent cancer by mopping up cell-damaging free radicals and inhibiting the production of reactive substances that could damage normal cells.

``The studies show that additional apple consumption not only may help reduce the risk of cancer, as previous studies have shown, but also that an apple a day may supply major bioactive compounds, which may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders,'' says Chang Y. `Cy' Lee, Cornell professor of food science at the university's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.

In a study that recently appeared online and is to be published in the Journal of Food Science,, Lee and his co-authors compared how two groups of rat neuronal cells fared against hydrogen peroxide, a common oxidative stressor. Only one of the two groups was pretreated with different concentrations of apple phenolic extracts.

The researchers found that the higher the concentration of apple phenolic extract, the greater the protection was for the nerve cells against oxidative stress. "What we found was that the apple phenolics, which are naturally occurring antioxidants found in fresh apples, can protect nerve cells from neurotoxicity induced by oxidative stress," Lee said.

Main agent

When Lee and co-author Ho Jin Heo, a visiting fellow at Cornell, looked at quercetin they found that it appeared to be the main agent responsible for the beneficial effect.

In fact, they found quercetin works even better in protecting nerve cells against hydrogen peroxide than vitamin C, a naturally occurring antioxidant known to help prevent cell and tissue damage from oxidation. Quercetin is primarily found in apples, berries and onions.

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