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Cinnamon Compound Could Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Update Date: May 24, 2013 10:05 AM EDT

Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia, afflicts over five million Americans with one in three seniors dying from this neurodegenerative condition, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The association also estimated that in 2013, Alzheimer's could cost the United State up to $203 billion. Several studies have looked into the causes of Alzheimer's in order to find ways of preventing it since there is no cure. In a new study, graduate student researcher, Roshni George, and adjunct professor, Don Graves from the University of California, Santa Barbara's Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, discovered certain compounds in cinnamon that could potentially help prevent Alzheimer's.

The research team looked at two particular compounds, cinnamaldeehyde and epicatechin, found in cinnamon. The researchers stated that these two compounds have the ability to stop the production of filamentous tangles, which are found in brain cells tied to Alzheimer's. The researcher also pinpointed the protein tau, which has a huge role in how neurons are structured and how they function as well as how they contribute to the development of these tangles. When tau does not bind with microtubules from the cell's structure correctly, the more 'twists' and 'tangles' form in the brain, resulting to an increased risk in Alzheimer's.

The team discovered that these two compounds could prevent tau knots. Specifically, the researchers explained that cinnamaldehyde binds to two pieces of cysteine, which is an amino acid present on tau. When the compound binds to these two residues, it protects the protein from oxidative stress, which other wise could damage the health of the cells. Epicatechin was also tied to preventing oxidation, which also protects the tau protein. Although the researchers tied cinnamon to Alzheimer's, they stated that more research needs to be done in order to determine if and how cinnamon could help prevent the disease.

The study, "Interaction of Cinnamaldehyde and Epicatechin with Tau: Implications of Beneficial Effects in Modulating Alzheimer's Disease Pathogenesis," was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease

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