Eating Pomegranates Can Help Alzheimer’s Patients Alleviate Symptoms, Study Says

Photo by Sahand Babal

A substance naturally occurring in pomegranates can improve memory and the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study concluded.

Forgetfulness, difficulty finding words, and confusion about time and place are some of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that an ordinary fruit can help.

Their study on mice with Alzheimer’s shows that urolithin A, which is a naturally occurring substance in pomegranates, can “alleviate memory problems and other consequences of dementia,” said Vilhelm Bohr, Affiliate Professor at the University’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

This is good news for patients with dementia – a disease that is difficult to treat.

“Even though the study was conducted on mouse models, the prospects are positive. So far, research has shown promising results for the substance.”

Clinical trials on humans are currently being planned.

Substance improves brain function

The researchers previously discovered that a specific molecule, nicotinamide riboside (NAD supplement), plays a key role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as it actively helps remove damaged mitochondria from the brain.

“Many patients with neurodegenerative diseases experience mitochondrial dysfunction, also known as mitophagy. This means that the brain has difficulties removing weak mitochondria, which thus accumulate and affect brain function. If you are able to stimulate the mitophagy process, removing weak mitochondria, you will see some very positive results,” explained Bohr, who was also a previous Department Chair at the US National Institute on Aging.

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The new study shows that urolithin A removes weak mitochondria from the brain just as effectively as NAD supplements. (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide is a coenzyme central to metabolism.)

The researchers still don’t know how much urolithin A is needed for humans to improve memory and alleviate symptoms.

“We still cannot say anything conclusive about the dosage, but I imagine that it is more than a pomegranate a day,” said Bohr.

He also hopes the substance can be used for preventive purposes with no significant side effects.

“Several studies so far show that there are no serious side effects of NAD supplementation. Our knowledge of urolithin A is more limited, but clinical trials with urolithin A have been effective in muscular disease.”

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

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