Green Tea EGCG Molecules Help Researchers Take a Step Towards Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

A recent studyconvincingly shows preventative and curative properties of EGCG, the “magicmolecule” found in high concentrations in green tea, on Alzheimer-likeneurodegeneration in mice. It carefully builds on over a decade of research onEGCG. Its new and exciting contribution is to open a pathway towards the use ofa combination of today’s botanical compounds in reducing the risk of and spreadof this dreadful malady rather than rely on a “magic bullet” pharmaceuticalthat at best will take ten years and $1.5 billion to develop.

It should not be interpreted as “green teareverses Alzheimer’s.” However, it confirms that the rich store of antioxidantsthat green tea is packed with has potential medical powers. EGCG – and carrots–are part of prevention and possibly cure.

The research study was carried out by a team fromthe University of California at Berkley. It used 32 laboratory mice, bred toproduce Alzheimer-like traits. They were randomly assigned to four treatmentgroups with an equal number of males and females in each. Thirty-two healthymice were added across them. The treatments tested the impacts of a diet of EGCGand FA – ferulic acid – over a three-month period. FA is where carrots come in.Just as many fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of EGCG, FA is foundin a wide range of foods, with carrots a major one. It’s been shown to providehealth benefits, mainly in skincare, diabetes, and blood pressure management.

One group received EGCG, one FA and one neither, justa placebo. The fourth group was the one that makes this such a strikingresearch study: EGCG plus FA. All thedosages were 30 milligrams per kilogram of weight. This is an amount that is well-toleratedin humans and easily-consumed as part of a healthy diet.

Before and after the special diet period, the micewere run through a series of neuropsychological tasks that approximated cognitiveand memory ones applied to dementia patients. A key trial is a maze in the formof a Y. This tests the spatial working memory that humans use to find their wayout of a building. The mice were in search of food or escape. Healthy onesshowed a consistent trial and adjustment pattern. The diseased ones wanderedaimlessly.

The results were unequivocal. “After three months,combination treatment [EGCG + FA] completely restored working memory and theAlzheimer’s mice performed just as well as the healthy comparison mice.” Thecareful design and randomization of the groups excluded bias and alternativefactors as an explanation. The separate EGCG and FA diets produced lesserimprovements.

That explanation draws on a decadeof biogenetic research and progress in understanding aspects of Alzheimer’s.Prime suspects in the pathology of the disease are amyloid proteins generatedaround nerve cells. These break down into beta-amyloids that form a gummyplaque. This destroys the cells’ and synapses’ ability to form connections andcreates tangles.

What brings EGCG to the forefront of molecularbiology health research – and green teas to the headlines – is that it is apowerful anti-oxidant whose structure can be used to directly attack, block, trickand infiltrate malignant cells. The conjecture in the Alzheimer study is thatthe combination of EGCG and FA blocked the amyloids breaking up into plaque andreduced the oxidative stress and neuroinflammation that stimulates thepathology.

Thebiodynamics of EGCG have been widely investigated, with consistent conclusions.A 2007 Israeli study had first shown that EGCG reverses some nerve damage andstops brain cells dying. Earlier, in 2005, German researchers had shown thatalbumins in peanuts bind to and can carry EGCG as an anti-oxidant saboteur ofcancer cells. Two reports in 2013, British and US, identified how green tea –and red wine, another rich source of anti-oxidants – distorts the shape ofplaque balls so that they cannot bind. It was this year that a Swiss studyintroduced the Y-maze cognitive and memory test. A 2017 Canadian project wasable to block the formation of pathological amyloids and “remodel” them.

Less focused work has highlighted the broader associationbetween green tea and health. The populations of Asian nations that are highconsumers are reported in two studies to have a 20-30% lower risk of dementia –among those who drink more than five cups a day.

The UCB report stresses its limitations, mostparticularly that results from studies of mice often do not transfer to humans.It’s not a clinical trial and excludes such considerations as the downside ofheavy green tea dosages; they decrease folic acid levels and interfere withiron absorption.

Overall, this is good science, well-grounded intheory and practice, and with encouraging results. It’s reminiscent of the searchfor an AIDS cure. First, it adds support to the view that Alzheimer’s will be beaten,and that the solution is likely to be a combination cure rather than a single“magic bullet.” A special unique implication is that much of the treatmentdoesn’t have to be better living through chemistry but just healthy eating anddrinking, starting now and not having to wait a decade for a pill orimmunotherapy procedure.

Sources: Science Daily, Amazing Green Tea, Google Scholar science journal abstracts, WebMD