CU study: Eating fruit may help stave off brain diseaseBy Topher Sanders Journal Staff http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080304/NEWS01/803040327
ITHACA — A study by a Cornell University professor shows that adding apples, bananas and oranges to your diet may help guard against diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Chang Lee, professor and chairman of the food science and technology department at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, used rat cells to examine the protective effect the antioxidant quercetin had in preventing neurological diseases in 2004.
Lee found that quercetin, which is in apples, could protect rat brain cells and might be able to protect human brain cells. Lee's most recent study, published online in the Journal of Food Sciences, compares the protective effects of apples to bananas and oranges. Apples with the skin contained the highest amount of protective antioxidants, followed by bananas and then oranges. Onions were the vegetable containing the most quercetin.
But it's still too early to say whether eating apples, oranges and bananas can prevent Alzheimer's disease.
“I cannot answer that question because we haven't done human studies,” Lee said. “Only based on these in-vitro laboratory studies can we say that they have good potential.”
One major question that remains is how the human body absorbs and distributes quercetin after a person eats an apple, banana or orange.
“We don't know that part, because that involves some chemistry, and not all chemicals are equally absorbed in our body,” Lee said.
Lee's work is just another verification of the power of antioxidants, said Dr. Maria Carrillo, director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association, a national Alzheimer's support organization.
“Basically what this boils down to is the importance of an antioxidant-rich diet,” Carrillo said. “This study points out very accurately that an apple eaten with the core is very high in antioxidants, and that old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away certainly seems to be true.”
While human trials are the next phase of Lee's work, he is comfortable in endorsing the positive health benefits of fruits and vegetables.
“Large consumption of different kinds of fruits and vegetables, more than five portions a day, I think definitely provides good health,” he said. “Not only in terms of Alzheimer's, but for cancers, diabetes, etc. I strongly recommend that we should consume enough fruits and vegetables.”
“A heart-healthy diet is a brain-healthy diet,” she said