The Mediterranean diet has been linked to significant health benefits for years, such as lowered blood pressure, and now new research has found that chemicals extracted from two plants found in the region — the prickly pear and brown seaweed — could potentially combat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

To reach these findings, the team set out to understand how brewer’s yeast which contained beta-amyloid clumps interacted with different plant extracts. Medical Xpress reported that beta-amyloid clumps are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Results showed that the yeast's health improved dramatically, which prompted the researchers to evaluate the molecules on genetically-modified fruit flies which were developed to exhibit symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease.

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Alzheimer's and Parkinson's both are linked to sticky protein clumps that accumulate over time and damage the nervous system to erode mobility or memory.Scientists discovered that the substances in prickly pear and brown seaweed prolonged the lifespan of flies, and improved their mobility.

prickly-pear The prickly pear tree, which grows in the Mediterranean, could potentially combat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

"We have long been screening plants scattered across the Mediterranean for small molecules that interfere with the buildup of toxic protein aggregates. The robust effects of chemicals derived from the prickly pear and brown seaweed confirm that our search has certainly not been in vain," said study co-author Neville Vassallo, MD, PhD, according to Medical XPress.

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A recent study also found that people following the Mediterranean diet retained more brain volume over a three-year period, Medical Daily previously reported. Declining mind mass is a natural part of aging.

The Mediterranean diet includes fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, rice, fish, dairy, poultry, and wine.

Source: Briffa M, Ghio S, Neuner J, Gauci AJ, Cacciottolo R, et al. Extracts from two ubiquitous Mediterranean plants ameliorate cellular and animal models of neurodegenerative proteinopathies. Neuroscience Letters. 2017.

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