November 20 2008
by Sherry Baker
(NaturalNews) The national Neuroscience 2008 conference is underway in Washington, D.C., presenting cutting edge research on the whole spectrum of diseases impacting the brain and nervous system. Breaking news from Johns Hopkins scientists presented at the meeting suggests several natural substances could be effective in treating or preventing some of these ills. Specifically, curry spice may protect the brain from Parkinson’s disease (PD) and plain table grapes appear to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation.
Researchers know inflammation and damage caused by oxidative stress are implicated in the death of brain cells associated with PD. And curcumin, derived from the curry spice turmeric, has long been known to be a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. So researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine put these facts together and came up with a laboratory model of Parkinson’s disease in order to see what effect curcumin has on PD. The result? The spice provided brain cells with strong protection from injury and death.
The research team tested curcumin on nerve-like cells that make a mutant form of the protein alpha-synuclein, called A53T, which binds together inside of cells, causing harmful changes that eventually lead to cell death. A53T alpha-synuclein caused half of untreated cells to die. But when A53T cells were treated with curcumin, only 19% of the cells died. What’s more, additional research showed that curcumin also reduced oxidative damage to the cells.
“These results suggest that curcumin is a potential candidate for inhibiting the oxidative damage that leads to Parkinson’s disease,” said Wanli Smith, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Hopkins, in a statement to the media. “This common curry spice could be a weapon to protect the brain.”
The healing power of foods was also demonstrated by a study using table grapes, a fruit known to have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to a high amount of flavonoids. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine scientists say their study of powdered grapes showed the fruit reduced pain and inflammation in a rat model of arthritis. Rats were fed grape powder once a day after receiving arthritis-inducing chemical injections in their knees. A control group of animals got only sugar water. Over a period of four days after the chemical injections, the researchers tested the rats’ inflammation levels by measuring knee swelling. The animals’ pain responses were also measured by documenting their sensitivity to mechanical stimulation such as prodding of the rodents’ paws.
The results showed the rats who were fed the grape powder could withstand stronger prodding than the sugar-fed rats. What’s more, the scientists also compared the grape powder treatment with a commonly used anti-inflammatory drug, meloxicam, and found the drug alone – without the grapes – did not sufficiently reduce the animals’ pain.
“I think there are two important messages here,” Jasenka Borzan, Ph.D., a research associate in anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins, said in a press statement. “That consuming flavonoids through natural products like grapes can be beneficial to health in general and also specifically for reducing inflammatory pain; and that consuming natural products like grapes may also be beneficial in reducing the amount of medication necessary to reduce inflammation.”