Alzheimer’s prevention potential found in wild Chilean fruit

Researchers at the Universidad de Concepción have discovered a powerful antioxidant in the maqui, a fruit native to Chile.

Thanks to a group of Universidad de Concepción researchers, it’s now clear that the maqui is much more than just a small wild fruit native to Chile. Scientists have shown that the maqui, or the “super berry” as it’s now known, is an effective tool in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects about 35 million people worldwide.

The research team, led by Dr. Jorge Fuentealba of the Faculty of Biological Sciences, showed that maqui is a great source of antioxidants, or substances that have the ability to cleanse the human body of accumulated waste and toxic elements. Maqui grows between the northern boundary of the Atacama Desert to the Araucanía Region in southern Chile, as well as on the Juan Fernández archipelago.

According to Dr. Fuentealba, various polyphenols – or chemicals found in certain vegetables and fruits that increase the antioxidant capacity of the body – are present in maqui extract. These polyphenols are responsible for giving such an intense color to the small fruit.

«These polyphenols have a direct effect on the pathology of the disease, or how the protein causes the disease. It is changing the toxic activity of the disease,» he said.

Thanks to this maqui research, Dr. Fuentealba and his team at the Universidad de Concepción were honored in 2012 for the second consecutive year with the Henri Nestlé Prize in Food Technology.

Additionally, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published the results of their research in last November’s edition, in an article titled «Polyphenol-enriched extract obtained from the maqui, prevents the neurotoxicity of neurons previously treated with beta-amyloid peptide in a model of Alzheimer’s».

According to Dr. Fuentealba, these results of this study are very important because they reveal some of the mechanisms that cause Alzheimer’s to develop, and could provide a future pathway to discovering new therapies for a disease that currently has no definitive treatment for prevention or slowing progression.