The next time you eat pesto or a caprese salad know that you may also be protecting your brain. A new study shows that basil, the essential herb used in traditional pesto sauce, may fend off Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, there are more than 6 million Americans suffering from this incurable, degenerative brain disorder.
According to recent studies, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease rose 145% between 2000 and 2019 alone and currently affects one in nine adults over the age of 65. A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that fenchol, a compound found in basil, may have a protective effect against this devastating disease.
Researchers from the University of South Florida Health (USF Health) said fenchol was effective in binding to and activating the cell-signaling molecule called free fatty acid receptor 2, or FFAR2. This molecule helps reduce the brain levels of amyloid-beta plaque, a protein that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The scientists postulated that as we age, the amount of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the gut are reduced. These fatty acids contribute to brain health by traveling from the gut and binding to and activating FFAR2 molecules. The profusion of SCFAs is notably reduced in patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, according to Sci-News.com.
Hariom Yadav, an associate professor of neurosurgery and brain repair at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine said that fenchol helps take over the work of the SCFAs by activating FFAR2 molecules and clearing amyloid plaque from the brain. Yadav admitted that more research is needed to determine the most effective way to deliver an effective dose of fenchol to the brain, says Eat This, Not That! His team is currently seeking answers to determine possible treatments against Alzheimer’s.
“A key one is whether fenchol consumed in basil itself would be more or less bioactive and effective than isolating and administering the compound in a pill,” he said.
Another study found that mice given basil extract showed improved memory retention, which may offer more hope that eating more basil will boost brain power.