Food science: Indian herbs found to have profound protective effects against diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes have been linked to each other. When a person has diabetes, Alzheimer’s is more likely to occur too – most likely because of the insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and inflammation diabetes causes. Because of this, researchers at Yogi Vemana University in India aimed to develop natural powerful agents for dual therapy of both Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 disease.

For the study, the researchers examined the phytochemical profiles and the effects of three Indian herbal plants Buchanania axillaris, Hemidesmus indicus, and Rhus mysorensis (locally known in India as Sara pappu, Suganda pala, and Sitha Sundari, respectively) on Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Based on their analyses, the researchers found that the methanolic extracts of the three Indian herbal plants demonstrated strong inhibitory activities against acetylcholinesterase (a regulatory enzyme), butyrylcholinesterase (a co-regulator enzyme), alpha-glucosidase, and beta-glucosidase enzymes. These indicated that Buchanania axillaris, Hemidesmus indicus, and Rhus mysorensis have strong antidiabetic properties.

The suppression of both acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase lead to improvements in memory and cognitive dysfunction; while the inhibition of alpha-glucosidase and beta-glucosidase enzymes slowed down the digestion of carbohydrates, indicating that the Indian herbal extracts are effective for managing carbohydrate metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes.

In addition, the researchers discovered that the three Indian herbal extracts also have the ability to prevent potential damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Moreover, the extracts exhibited significant cell viability and powerful neuroprotective effects against oxidative stress-induced cell death in neuronal cells.

More on the link between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes

People living with Type 2 diabetes are 50 to 65 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to people with normal blood sugars. The exact link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood. However, it is believed that high blood sugar or insulin can harm the brain in different ways.

For one, diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which harm the heart and blood vessels. In turn, damaged blood vessels in the brain may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes is characterized by abnormal levels of insulin, which in turn affects the balance of chemicals in the body and brain. Because the brain relies on different chemicals in the body, changes in these chemicals may aid in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The inflammation brought about by high blood pressure also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease because it may harm the cells in the brain.

Preventing diabetes or effective management of diabetes may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. This can be addressed with a proper diet, regular exercise, and healthy gut microbiome. (Related: More evidence Alzheimer’s and other dementia can be prevented: save your brain by preventing diabetes.)

  • Paleo diet – The therapeutic benefits of a Paleo diet in the treatment and prevention of diabetes may also alleviate the excessive blood sugar and insulin resistance that underlie Alzheimer’s disease associated with diabetes. The Paleo diet is nutrient-dense, providing the body with various vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that promote healthy brain function and prevent neurodegeneration. This type of diet is rich in vitamins A, D, C, E, and B-vitamins, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Physical activity – Living in a sedentary lifestyle negatively affects glycemic control in the brain and increases the risk of cognitive decline. Thus, engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity promotes healthier glucose metabolism patterns in the brain preventing glycotoxic Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Gut microbiome – Research shows that both patients of diabetes and Alzheimer’s have altered gut microbiomes compared to healthy people. The altered gut microbiomes may contribute to insulin resistance, affecting the course of these conditions. Although more research is needed, these findings suggest that creating a healthy gut microbiome may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

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