Green Tea and Its Effects on Alzheimer’s

BLOG-AlzJune-2013I often get boxes of green tea as a welcoming gift from visiting scientists. Occasionally, I sample these fine teas, however, a recent study makes me realize that perhaps I should be drinking more of it.

MADC affiliate Dr. Mi Hee Lim and her colleagues recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that a flavonoid found in green tea, called ECGC, binds and changes the property of beta-amyloid, a toxic protein that accumulates in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

The question that guided Dr. Lim’s research was “Why does green tea extract have anti-amyloid properties?”

To answer her question, she used an array of biochemical and cell biological approaches. The outcome of Dr. Lim’s studies show that ECGC can bind beta-amyloid monomers (a protein by itself) and dimers (two proteins bound together), particularly when calcium or zinc is present. When ECGC and beta-amyloid bind together, beta-amyloid is less likely to form into the large, ordered fibrils that eventually comprise the brain plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid can take on many shapes, but ECGC seems to force the beta-amyloid into a single shape. More importantly, ECGC was able to reduce the toxicity of beta-amyloid in cells, suggesting that this single shape, or structure, may be less toxic than other forms of beta-amyloid.

So, what does this mean for our understanding of Alzheimer’s and the discovery of better therapies?

First, green tea extract by itself is probably not potent enough to represent a potential therapeutic compound. You should still go ahead and drink it, but know that the levels of ECGC in your body will be far lower, and less powerful, than the levels used in this study. Second, the new knowledge about how flavonoids bind beta-amyloid and alter its properties represents a key starting point toward the development of similar compounds that do the same thing, just in a stronger way. Finally, Dr. Lim’s discovery that this compound forces beta-amyloid into a distinct, simpler structure sheds light on the complexity of beta-amyloid behavior, reminding us that we still have much more to learn about beta-amyloid and its effects on our brain.

Visit the MADC website to find other research studies the Center is working on.


MADC logoThe Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC) was established at the University of Michigan Health System, through affiliation with the Department of Neurology and aims to conduct and promote research on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders; ensure state-of-the-art care for individuals experiencing cognitive impairment or dementia; and enhance the public’s and health professionals’ understanding of dementia through education and outreach efforts. The infrastructure of the Center stems from a 20 year history as an NIH-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.


UMHS logoFor more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including 18 years on the U.S. News & World Report honor roll of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

What are the signs of a stroke?

Acting quickly is a key to recovery

stopwatch-strokeA stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. Without oxygen from the blood, that part of the brain starts to die. The part of the body controlled by the damaged area of the brain then stops working properly.

According to Dr. Eric Adelman, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, brain damage can begin within minutes of experiencing a stroke, so it is important to know the symptoms of stroke and to seek immediate treatment.

Call 911 immediately if you suspect stroke

“If you or someone you know is having a stroke, the first thing to do is to call 911,” Dr. Adelman says. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability. “If a stroke patient is given clot-busting medication, called tPA, within 4.5 hours, their chances for recovery increase.”

Although the majority of a stroke patient’s recovery happens within the first year, “With intense rehabilitation, a patient may continue to recover after the first year,” says Dr. Adelman. Younger individuals who suffer a stroke tend to have better recovery results.

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Out of sync with the world: Brain study shows body clock is “broken” in depression

The internal circadian rhythm "clock", based in the brain, rules many body functions

The internal circadian rhythm “clock”, based in the brain, rules many body functions

Every cell in our bodies runs on a 24-hour clock, tuned to the night-day, light-dark cycles that have ruled us since the dawn of humanity.

Our brain acts as timekeeper, keeping that clock in sync with the outside world. It rules our appetites, our sleep, our moods and much more.

But new research led by U-M Medical School scientists shows that the clock may be broken in the brains of people with depression — even at the level of the gene activity inside their brain cells.

It’s the first time this has ever been seen directly. Continue reading

Preventing stroke

Lifestyle changes that can help

vegetables and shrimp in bowl

Eating healthy food is one way to help prevent stroke

Making changes in your lifestyle today can help reduce your chances of experiencing future health issues, such as stroke. For example, “Blood pressure is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors in connection with stroke,” says Dr. Eric Adelman, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan. And there are other lifestyle changes that can help in preventing stroke and improve your overall health:

  • Manage diabetes. Keep your blood sugar levels within a target range.
  • Take aspirin or a blood thinner if recommended by your doctor.
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you.
  • Limit alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Raise your heart rate by getting at least 30 minutes of exercise (walking, swimming, cycling, etc.) on most days of the week.
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in cholesterol, saturated fats and salt.


University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on