Pomegranates Show Promise in Alzheimer’s Treatment

Written by Camilla Jessen

Jun.10 - 2024 2:29 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A new study from the University of Copenhagen suggests that a naturally occurring substance found in pomegranates, strawberries, and walnuts could enhance treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

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Forgetfulness, difficulty finding words, and confusion about time and place are some of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

This incurable brain disease is the most prevalent form of dementia, affecting about two-thirds of dementia patients. Dementia often leads to functional impairment and eventually impacts brain areas responsible for motor control and breathing.

A Natural Discovery

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found that a substance in common fruits could help manage these symptoms.

"Our study on mouse models with Alzheimer's disease shows that urolithin A, which is naturally occurring in pomegranates, can alleviate memory problems and other consequences of dementia," says Vilhelm Bohr, Affiliate Professor at the University of Copenhagen's Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

The study also found urolithin A in strawberries and walnuts.

This finding is promising for patients with dementia, a condition notoriously difficult to treat.

"Even though the study was conducted on mouse models, the prospects are positive. Research has shown promising results for the substance in muscles, and clinical trials on humans are being planned," Bohr adds.

Improving Brain Function

Previously, researchers discovered that a molecule called nicotinamide riboside (NAD supplement) plays a key role in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's by helping remove damaged mitochondria from the brain.

"Many patients with neurodegenerative diseases experience mitochondrial dysfunction, also known as mitophagy," Bohr explains. "This means that the brain has difficulties removing weak mitochondria, which accumulate and affect brain function. Stimulating the mitophagy process can yield very positive results."

The new study demonstrates that urolithin A is as effective as NAD supplements in removing weak mitochondria from the brain.

Potential for Prevention

The researchers are still determining the exact amount of urolithin A needed to improve memory and alleviate Alzheimer's symptoms.

"We still cannot say anything conclusive about the dosage. But I imagine that it is more than a pomegranate a day. However, the substance is already available in pill form, and we are currently trying to find the right dosage," Bohr says.

He is hopeful that urolithin A can be used preventively without side effects.

"The advantage of working with a natural substance is the reduced risk of side effects. Several studies show no serious side effects of NAD supplementation. Our knowledge of urolithin A is more limited, but clinical trials have shown its effectiveness in muscular diseases. Now we need to look at its effects on Alzheimer's."

The study, titled "Urolithin A improves Alzheimer’s disease cognition and restores mitophagy and lysosomal functions", has been published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

This research opens new avenues for potential treatments and preventive measures for Alzheimer's disease.

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