Fenchol, a natural compound found in basil (but also in eucalyptus leaves, wild celery, nutmeg, aster flowers, and citrus fruits), seems to reduce neurotoxicity in the brain. In this way it might protect the brain against the accumulation of the toxic amyloid-beta protein, related to Alzheimer’s.
The study examined how an interaction between the gut microbiome and the brain could possibly influence the brain health and age-related cognitive decline. The researchers focused on studying the free fatty acid receptor 2 (FFAR2), a cell signaling molecule expressed on neuronal (brain) cells. FFAR2 can be activated by short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the environment outside the neuronal cell and can transmit signaling inside the cell. SCFAs are substances produced by gut bacteria. They are the primary source of nutrition for cells in the colon that travel through the blood to the brain. The amount of SCFAs is often low(er) in older people with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. This might inhibit the normal work of FFARs, leading to the faster progression of the brain disease.
The researchers confirmed that inhibiting the FFAR2 receptor contributes to the abnormal buildup of the amyloid-beta protein causing neurotoxicity. They also tested more than 144.000 natural compounds to find those that could mimic the same beneficial effect of SCFAs in activating FFAR2 signaling. As a result, fenchol turned to be the best at binding to the FFAR’s to stimulate its signaling. By doing that, fenchol was able to increase the degradation of amyloid-beta and to reduce the formation of half-dead “zombie” neuronal cells, allowing for quicker clearance of the toxic protein from the brain.
“Zombie” cells build up in diseased and aging organs, create a damaging inflammatory environment, and send stress or death signals to neighboring healthy cells, which can also change into harmful zombie cells or die.
Although there are still a lot of questions to be answered, like which form of fenchol (natural basil leaves or supplement) and what dose is the most effective to get the compound into the brain, the first step is done and may give us a natural tool to prevent Alzheimer’s.
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