People born with certain congenital metabolic disorders are unable to make a key enzyme that processes proteins. Those proteins can build up and become toxic, causing mental and developmental disorders. To avoid that fate, sufferers have to be diagnosed early and adhere to a highly restricted diet.
Now researchers at Tel Aviv University have found that a compound in green tea, and another in red wine, can block the formation of these damaging biochemicals.
The scientists looked at something called epigallocatechin, or EGCG, found in green tea, and also in red wines’ tannic acid, known to block the formation of amyloid protein conglomerates. Amyloids are signatures of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and resemble the protein pile-ups characteristic of congenital metabolic conditions. EGCG is thought to have a range of health benefits, from lowering the risk of cancer and diabetes, to reducing inflammation and even stimulating hair growth.
Both green tea and red wine, tested apart from each other, blocked the formation of protein accumulations that endanger people with certain inborn metabolic disorders.
The trend to “functional medicine” and other cutting-edge movements in health care are turning increasingly to the medicinal powers of foods to prevent and cure illness. This complements the development of “nutraceuticals,” foods engineered to contain health-giving compounds. Food increasingly will be recognized as a key to preventing illness, and also as a key element in curing it.