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Food, Health, and Eco-news
Apple Juice May Guard Against Alzheimer's
The old saw about apples keeping doctors away may apply to Alzheimer's... at least for mice, and likely for men
by Craig Weatherby

Recent findings suggest that Alzheimer's may be brought on in part by lack of blood flow to supply blood sugar (glucose) to the brain (See “Blood-Starved Brains Shown Prone to Alzheimer's” and “Cocoa and Tea Boost Brain Blood and Performance.”)

Of course, apple juice would add sugar to the brain-protection picture.

But a series of studies by researchers at the University of Massachusetts suggests that apple juice may aid brain health in several other ways.

A team led by Thomas Shea, PhD of the University's Center for Cellular Neurobiology conducted controlled studies in normal and “apoE-deficient” mice, which are prone to develop Alzheimer's disease (Chan A, Shea TB 2009).

Mice bred to lack the apolipoprotein E (apoE) gene are susceptible to the excessive buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which kill cells and is strongly associated with development of Alzheimer's disease.

Beta-amyloid plaque kills brain cells in part by increasing the oxidative stress caused by free radicals… an effect that promotes senile dementia, Alzheimer's, and age-related cognitive decline.

The Massachusetts team found that adding apple juice concentrate to the animals' drinking water had several beneficial effects:
  • Blocked buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in normal and apoE-deficient mice.
  • Decreased expression of a gene called presenilin-1 (PS-1), which promotes Alzheimer's disease by raising beta-amyloid plaque and free radical levels.
  • Maintained acetylcholine levels in aged mice placed on vitamin-deficient, oxidative stress-promoting diets, which otherwise cause levels of this key neurotransmitter to decline. Major anti-Alzheimer's drugs like Tacrine and Aricept work (pretty weakly) by reducing breakdown of acetylcholine.
Together, these findings support earlier epidemiological findings, which suggest that people who frequently consume fruit juice—and fruits and vegetables rich in flavonoid-type antioxidants—enjoy a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Those old sayings seem to get wiser with the passing years!

  • Chan A, Graves V, Shea TB. Apple juice concentrate maintains acetylcholine levels following dietary compromise. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Aug;9(3):287-91.
  • Chan A, Shea TB. Dietary Supplementation with Apple Juice Decreases Endogenous Amyloid-beta Levels in Murine Brain. J Alzheimers Dis. 2009 Jan;16(1):167-71.
  • Chan A, Shea TB. Supplementation with apple juice attenuates presenilin-1 overexpression during dietary and genetically-induced oxidative stress. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Dec;10(4):353-8.
  • Rogers EJ, Milhalik S, Orthiz D, Shea TB. Apple juice prevents oxidative stress and impaired cognitive performance caused by genetic and dietary deficiencies in mice. J Nutr Health Aging. 2004;8(2):92-7.
  • Shea TB, Rogers E, Ashline D, Ortiz D, Sheu MS. Apolipoprotein E deficiency promotes increased oxidative stress and compensatory increases in antioxidants in brain tissue. Free Radic Biol Med. 2002 Oct 15;33(8):1115-20.