What makes our brains age by paving the way for neurodegeneration? And is it possible to counter this condition? A very recent scientific research, published a few days ago in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience by an American team from the University of South Florida (Razazan et al, Front. Aging Neurosci., 2021), seems to shed light on the mechanism underlying the development of neurodegeneration and also proposes a possible candidate to counter it, a substance deriving from basil, but let's go into more detail.
The connection between the gut and the brain
Everything starts, as always, from the gut microbiota. The good bacteria of our microbiota, in fact, produce particular substances, short-chain fatty acids, which are the main source of nourishment for the cells of the colon. Not only that, some of these substances pass the intestinal barrier to enter the bloodstream and thus reach the brain. The mechanism of action until now was unclear but evidence has emerged that these short-chain fatty acids are capable of affecting brain health. With age, short-chain fatty acids decrease in number, thus reducing their neuroprotective function.
The mechanism revealed
Well, American researchers, through laboratory tests, have come to discover that these short-chain fatty acids interact with a molecule, FFAR2. As observed in the study we are talking about today, FFAR 2 acts by counteracting the toxic accumulation of beta amyloid proteins. The accumulation of these proteins, together with neuroinflammation, represents the distinctive character and the fuse that causes Alzheimer's to explode.
The protective role of basil
But researchers were not satisfied with understanding the mechanism that links the health of the gut microbiota with that of the brain. In fact, scientists have tried to understand if it is possible to find another candidate capable of mimicking the action of short-chain fatty acids and replacing them when they are deficient. This substance has been found and is the fenchol, a compound contained in basil that gives this plant its unmistakable aroma.
However, as the same authors of the study point out, these results must not lead to the ingestion of excessive quantities of basil. In fact, research is only just beginning and the dosage still needs to be understood for optimal action. Certainly, however, within a healthy and balanced diet, basil can also find space, added to sauces or salads.