Nutrition as a means of preventing neurodegenerative diseases

Cláudia Nunes dos Santos, Principal Investigator of Molecular Nutrition and Health Lab at CEDOC-NMS|FCM, recently published the first article under the project funded by the European Research Council (ERC), entitled “Low molecular weight metabolites from polyphenols as effectors for attenuating neuroinflammation" in the American Chemical Society Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Nowadays, the prevention and delay of neurodegenerative diseases is a growing concern with the aging of the population. The ability to alter the progression and development of neurodegenerative diseases through diet is a very attractive approach and is increasingly supported by scientific data.
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits provides us with a significant amount of bioactive compounds, named polyphenols, that may have a neuroprotective function. In previous work, the research team found that one of the metabolites resulting from polyphenol ingestion plays a relevant role in the process of neuroinflammation of immune brain cells (called microglia) - the biological process common to all neurodegenerative diseases. However, although there is a description of polyphenol metabolites, there is little information on the effect of these compounds on neuroinflammation and it is therefore important to identify metabolites and select those that actually reach the brain.
In 2017, researcher Claudia N. Santos received an ERC scholarship to study the influence of these metabolites on neuroinflammation and their molecular mechanisms, namely to understand which of these metabolites reach the brain, and which ones affect the inflammatory processes in the brain. This review article systematizes which metabolites of polyphenols reach the circulation and the molecular mechanisms underlying their effects on the cerebral inflammatory process affecting neurodegenerative diseases. Hence, this first European funded article is the map from which this research team will continue its research and will also serve as a database for so many other scientists working in this field.
Future work will increase the degree of complexity of the system. Moreover, the effects of polyphenolic metabolites will be investigated in a multicellular context and their role in neuroinflammation will be tested in animal models.
Finally, researcher Cláudia N. Santos refers to the importance of a varied diet and the intake of fruits and vegetables to minimize the effects of neurodegenerative diseases or even postpone the onset of such diseases.

imagem1_fotografia equipa investigacao
Researh Team (left to right): Diogo Carregosa, Cláudia Nunes dos Santos, Rafael Carecho. Credits: Research Team.

You may find the complete press release in Portuguese here "01 August 2019 | A nutrição como meio de prevenção das doenças neurodegenerativas."

Research article online.

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