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One day, drinking a glass of milk and munching on cheese and crackers will be all you need to guard your wellbeing against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This is according to Dr. Mahesh Narayan, associate professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at El Paso, whose recent studies have led him to suggest that everyday spices could prevent neurodegenerative diseases from damaging mental health, as well as overall wellness.
Dr Narayan has recently undertaken studies, in which he found that everyday spices such as turmeric, most commonly found in Indian food, neem, almond oil and the creosote bush may contain key neurodegenerative disease-preventing ingredients. Narayan, a native of India, explained, ‘The long term prospect for us is to actually lace everyday food, such as potato chips, milk, cheese, etc., with these ethno-pharmaceuticals, and then have them neuro-protect you without you even knowing.’
A brain process called “protein misfolding” is the most commonly known to cause many neurodegenerative diseases, and Dr Narayan’s experiments with curcumin, a polyphenol in turmeric, show the potential of these kitchen table ingredients to intervene in this process. Free radicals help to spread Alzheimer’s [AD] and Parkinson’s [PD], and Narayan explained that polyphenols are good at scavenging free radicals. This helps to prevent the progress of the pathogenesis of AD and PD.
Narayan is currently working with Dr Edward Castaneda, chair and professor of psychology, and Dr Manuel-Arrango, assistant professor of biological sciences, at UTEP, with the shared goal of moving on to animal studies. Commenting on his future contributions to Narayan’s research, Castaneda said, ‘If you develop a drug that is useful for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, you don’t know if it will be useful unless you investigate the behavioural effects of that drug.’ The researchers aim is to explore an animal model, and the effects that polyphenols have in diminishing and or preventing the animal’s neurodegenerative diseases.
Narayan commented, ‘The more we exploit the more possibilities.’ None of the spices studied are related to one another, but each of them contain polyphenols-rich extracts. Narayan noted, ‘The ingredients are mild. We hope they are incorporated into diets and the general population is neuro-protected without them having to do much about it.’