The brain is an important and complex organ in humans, as it controls the whole body. A healthy brain improves the life and productivity of individuals. However, brain damage negatively affects not only the individual but also their close ones. Incidences of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, stroke, headache disorders, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, meningitis, etc. have been increasing over the past years. According to a recent report published in Lancet Global Health in 2019, the major contributor to the disability-adjusted life years related to neurological disorders was stroke (37.9%), followed by headache disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and encephalitis with the contribution being 17.5, 11.3, 5.7 and 5.3% respectively in India. The majority of neurological disorders are due to genetic mutation, congenital abnormalities, oxidative stress, inflammation, infection, trauma, lifestyle and other environmental factors. However, there are chances not only to prevent, but improve these conditions with the help of neuro-nutraceuticals.
Neuro-nutraceuticals are active compounds obtained from food products or plants that exert effects on the central nervous system. They have the potential to improve brain health as well as to prevent or reduce the effect of various neurological disorders. Neuro-nutraceuticals help in the better functioning of the central nervous system. These bioactive compounds from food help in keeping a healthier brain by fighting against oxidative stress, inflammation, etc.
Some of the common Neuro-nutraceuticals are discussed below:
Curcumin is a major polyphenol found in turmeric, with a great potential to treat various diseases. It is known for its promising antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, nephron protective, cardioprotective and hepatoprotective properties. In the brain, curcumin reduces neuroinflammation, neurotoxicity, apoptosis, neuronal loss, oxidative stress and age-related disorders. Curcumin protects the brain against neurodegeneration, thus helpful in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It slows down the progression of brain diseases. It is also used in treatments of epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, encephalitis, brain tumour, depression and spinal cord injury. Curcumin reduces the frequency of migraine attacks. It also increases DHA synthesis in the brain and improves memory.
Apocynin is extracted from the roots of Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutki), a traditional herb grown in the Himalayan region, which is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of fever, liver and heart diseases. In the brain, apocynin exerts its neuroprotective effects via suppression of neuronal apoptosis, inflammation and oxidative stress. It is useful in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, epilepsy, brain injuries and anxiety disorders. It reduces memory and learning impairments in Parkinson’s disease.
Resveratrol, being a polyphenol is present in grapes, mulberries, raspberries, blueberries and peanuts having anti-microbial properties. Resveratrol demonstrates its neuroprotective effect in the brain via inducing neurogenesis and mitochondrial biogenesis in neurons and reducing free radicals, oxidative stress, neuroinflammation and apoptosis. It plays an important role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and alcohol-induced neurodegenerative disorders. It improves memory and cognitive performance.
Bioactive sulphur-containing compound, Allicin is present in garlic which is used for both therapeutic and culinary purposes. Allicin has antioxidant, anticancer and anti-microbial properties. It is also effective against cardiovascular diseases. It acts as a neuroprotective molecule and ameliorates cognitive ability in both neurodegenerative and neuropsychological disorders. It maintains the balance of neurotransmitters and neurons from damage, inflammation and apoptosis. It is useful in the management of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactive syndrome, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.
Quercetin is a bioactive flavonoid present in apples, berries, cherries, onion, red leaf lettuce and asparagus. The beneficial effects of quercetin include anti-tumour, anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive and immunomodulatory activity. Quercetin protects neurons from inflammation, degeneration and oxidative stress, thus promoting learning, memory and cognitive function. It shows useful effects against neurodegenerative diseases and brain tumours.
Eugenol is an active compound present in clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf and basil. Eugenol is known as a dental analgesic, but it also has anti-convulsive, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, anti-stress and anti-depressant properties. The hydrophobic property of eugenol is useful in its entry into the brain via the blood-brain barrier, where it protects neuronal cells from oxidative stress and inflammation. It is highly beneficial and can be used to treat epilepsy, depression, ischemia, traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease.
Apigenin is a flavonoid known for its anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties. It is also a phytoestrogen. Apigenin is commonly found in chamomile, parsley, oranges, grapefruit, onions, broccoli, celery, thyme, olives and cherries. Apigenin acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cognition-enhancing and neuroprotective substance. The therapeutic potential of apigenin is useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, amnesia, depression, insomnia and anxiety disorders.
There are certain other compounds, which also work as neuro-nutraceuticals and provide benefits to the brain. Most of these compounds come from the traditionally used plants and herbs, but their impact on brain health has been recently proven scientifically. However, the use of certain compounds for brain health is limited, due to their low bioavailability and inability to penetrate through the blood-brain barrier. Thus, neuro-nutraceuticals should be used under proper guidance to obtain maximum benefits.
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About the Authors:
Vineeta Kharkwal & Dr. Kiran Bains
Department of Food and Nutrition,
Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.
Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
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