IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


14th September, 2023 Science and Technology

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Scientists have found that highly abundant naturally occurring plant-based polyphenols (PPs) like tannic acid found in twigs of trees like Chestnut and Oak can modulate the ferroptosis-AD axis to yield a safe, cost-effective strategy for combating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and reduce the societal burden of this debilitating neurodegenerative disorder.


  • Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and Ferroptosis: AD is a brain disorder causing memory loss. Ferroptosis, a type of cell death linked to iron and oxidative stress, may play a role in AD.
  • Natural Polyphenols: Researchers found that plant-based polyphenols like tannic acid (from trees like Chestnut and Oak) might help fight AD. These compounds can target ferroptosis, potentially reducing the impact of AD.
  • Role of GPX4: GPX4 is a key enzyme in defending against ferroptosis. Tannic acid seems to boost GPX4, protecting cells from damage caused by AD.
  • New Treatment Approach: Using natural polyphenols like tannic acid offers a promising way to tackle AD by addressing ferroptosis. This research uncovers a link between ferroptosis and AD.
  • Potential Impact: This discovery opens doors for new treatments and inspires further research in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases like AD.

About the disease

  • Alzheimer's disease is a complex and devastating neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects memory and cognitive functions.

Introduction to Alzheimer's Disease

  • Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior.
  • It is the most common cause of dementia among older adults and one of the leading causes of disability and dependency in the elderly population worldwide.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Beta-Amyloid Plaques: One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's is the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, which disrupts communication between neurons.
  • Tau Protein Tangles: Abnormal tau protein tangles also form within neurons, interfering with their function.
  • Genetics: A family history of AD and certain genetic mutations increase the risk.
  • Age: The risk of developing AD increases significantly with age.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Conditions like hypertension and diabetes may contribute.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Lack of physical activity, poor diet, smoking, and social isolation may increase risk.


  • Memory Loss: Initially, individuals may experience mild forgetfulness, but it progresses to severe memory impairment.
  • Cognitive Decline: Problems with language, reasoning, and problem-solving.
  • Behavioral Changes: Mood swings, irritability, and changes in personality.
  • Disorientation: Difficulty recognizing familiar places and people.
  • Impaired Motor Function: Eventually, individuals may lose the ability to perform basic tasks.


  • Clinical Assessment: A comprehensive evaluation of cognitive and behavioral functions.
  • Neuropsychological Testing: Assessing memory, language, and other cognitive abilities.
  • Imaging: MRI and PET scans can reveal brain changes.
  • Biomarker Tests: Measuring levels of beta-amyloid and tau in cerebrospinal fluid.

Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Preclinical Stage: Brain changes are underway, but no symptoms are evident.
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Mild memory and cognitive problems.
  • Early-Stage Alzheimer's: Memory loss and cognitive difficulties become noticeable.
  • Moderate-Stage Alzheimer's: Severe memory loss and personality changes.
  • Late-Stage Alzheimer's: Individuals require full-time care, lose communication skills, and basic functions.

Treatment and Management

  • Medications: Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine may help manage symptoms.
  • Non-Pharmacological Approaches: Cognitive stimulation, physical exercise, and social engagement.
  • Supportive Care: Managing symptoms like aggression, depression, and sleep disturbances.
  • Clinical Trials: Research into new treatments and interventions.

About Natural Polyphenols

  • Polyphenols are a diverse group of naturally occurring compounds found in plants.
  • They are characterized by the presence of multiple phenolic rings and are known for their antioxidant properties and potential health benefits.
  • Polyphenols are a large and structurally diverse group of compounds found in fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, red wine, and various other plant-based foods.

Types of Polyphenols

There are several classes of polyphenols, including:

  • Flavonoids: This class includes flavonols (e.g., quercetin), flavones (e.g., apigenin), flavanones (e.g., naringenin), flavanols (e.g., catechins), and anthocyanins (e.g., cyanidin).
  • Phenolic Acids: Examples include caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and ellagic acid.
  • Stilbenes: Resveratrol, found in red wine, is a well-known stilbene.
  • Lignans: These are found in foods like flaxseeds and sesame seeds.
  • Other Polyphenols: Curcumin (from turmeric), lignans, and lignin are some other polyphenols found in plants.

Dietary Sources

Polyphenols are abundant in various foods, including:

  • Fruits: Apples, berries, citrus fruits, and cherries.
  • Vegetables: Spinach, onions, and artichokes.
  • Beverages: Tea (especially green tea), coffee, and red wine.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Flaxseeds, peanuts, and almonds.
  • Whole Grains: Buckwheat and whole wheat.

Health Benefits

  • Antioxidant Activity: Polyphenols are known for their antioxidant properties, which help combat oxidative stress and reduce cell damage.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Some polyphenols exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Heart Health: Certain polyphenols, such as resveratrol and flavonoids, may contribute to cardiovascular health by improving blood vessel function and reducing blood pressure.
  • Cancer Prevention: Polyphenols like curcumin and ellagic acid have been studied for their potential anticancer properties.
  • Neuroprotection: There is ongoing research into the role of polyphenols in protecting brain health and potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
  • Weight Management: Some studies suggest that polyphenols may aid in weight management by influencing metabolism and appetite.


The bioavailability of polyphenols can vary widely depending on the source and type of polyphenol. Factors like food matrix, cooking methods, and individual differences can affect how effectively these compounds are absorbed and utilized by the body.

Potential Applications

  • Dietary Supplements: Polyphenol supplements, such as resveratrol or quercetin capsules, are available for those seeking to increase their intake.
  • Functional Foods: Food manufacturers are incorporating polyphenols into products like fortified beverages, snacks, and cereals.
  • Cosmetics: Polyphenols are being used in skincare products for their potential benefits for skin health.


Alzheimer's disease is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While there is currently no cure, ongoing research offers hope for better treatments and prevention strategies. Natural polyphenols are bioactive compounds found in a wide range of plant-based foods and beverages. Their antioxidant and potential health-promoting properties make them an intriguing area of research in the field of nutrition and health.


Q. Examine the role of natural polyphenols in agriculture and food technology, highlighting their applications in sustainable farming practices and food preservation. (250 Words)