The studies show that the chemical quercetin, a so-called phytonutrient, appears to be largely responsible for protecting rat brain cells when assaulted by oxidative stress in laboratory tests.
Phytonutrients, such as phenolic acids and flavanoids, protect the apple against bacteria, viruses and fungi and provide the fruit's anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits. Quercetin is a major flavanoid in apples. Antioxidants help prevent cancer by mopping up cell-damaging free radicals and inhibiting the production of reactive substances that could damage normal cells.
"The studies show that additional apple consumption not only may help reduce the risk of cancer, as previous studies have shown, but also that an apple a day may supply major bioactive compounds, which may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders," says Chang Y. "Cy" Lee, Cornell professor of food science at the university's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.
In a study that recently appeared online and is to be published in the November/December 2004 issue of theJournal of Food Science (69(9): S357-60), Lee and his co-authors compared how two groups of rat neuronal cells fared against hydrogen peroxide, a common oxidative stressor. Only one of the two groups was pretreated with different concentrations of apple phenolic extracts.
The researchers found that the higher the concentration of apple phenolic extract, the greater the protection was for the nerve cells against oxidative stress.
"What we found was that the apple phenolics, which are naturally occurring antioxidants found in fresh apples, can protect nerve cells from neurotoxicity induced by oxidative st
Contact: Susan S. Lang
Cornell University News Service