Brain-Boosting Beets

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Beets may have a protective effect on the brain that could help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests. Scientists at the University of South Florida found that betanin, the compound that gives the root vegetable its rich red color, could help prevent pro tein pieces called beta-amyloid from forming harmful plaque in the brain—a hallmark of the neurodegenerative disease. This plaque usually occurs when beta-amyloid binds to metals in the brain such as iron and copper; these metals cause the protein to form clumps that can trigger inflammation and oxidation, which destroys nerve cells. In a series of experiments, the researchers found that when beta-amyloid bound to copper was exposed to betanin, oxidation dropped by up to 90 percent. “This is just a first step,” co-author Li-June Ming tells the New York Daily News. “But we hope our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin, [which] could be used to synthesize drugs that could make life a bit easier for those who suffer from this disease.”

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