Native plum likely new weapon against Alzheimer's

by Kerry Faulkner
The Kakadu plum produces powerful antioxidants to protect themselves from the harsh environment they grown in. Credit: Parks Australia

West Australian researchers are confident the native Australian fruit Kakadu plum could provide the most powerful antioxidant treatment yet in combating Alzheimer's disease.

Chair of Edith Cowan University's Foundation of Ageing and Alzheimer's Disease, Ralph Martins says early indications are the Kakadu plum could have up to seven-times greater than curcumin—the chemical compound in turmeric currently in clinical trials as an Alzheimer's treatment.

The Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana) grows wild in the Northern Territory and Western Australia where it is used as a traditional food and medicine by Indigenous people.

Professor Martins says while curcumin is a very powerful antioxidant, the Kakadu plum's 'protective ability' makes it potentially much more powerful.

"When the plant's environment is very harsh they have to produce powerful antioxidants to protect themselves and I think that's what's happening with the Kakadu plum so I am very, very excited," he says.

"Because it's a natural compound it could get to clinical trial faster but what we have to do first is see in the laboratory if it can protect brain neurons from toxic agents—the one in Alzheimer's is beta-amyloid, which kills brain cells.

"That would give us confidence that it's an attractive candidate for further trials."

He says trials could start as early as mid-2015 if funding can be secured.

It is estimated that by 2050 three million Australians will have a form of dementia with Aboriginal people among those most at risk.

Prof Martins says while Kakadu plums are currently grown in remote locations they could be cultivated more widely for medical purposes.

He applauded former WA Chief Scientist Lyn Beazley for linking him to a project spearheaded by UWA's Dr Liz Barbour which has provided him with fruit samples for his research.

Dr Barbour's project aims to develop the Kakadu plum tree as a commercial crop to boost Indigenous communities.

She says the health benefits from the fruit's high vitamin C and antioxidant capabilities have already attracted international attention to the project.

"Health-market demand for natural vitamin C and antioxidants is creating a market for Kakadu plum fruit that is a challenge to support reliably from wild harvest," Dr Barbour says.

The UWA project focuses on supplementing existing trees with enrichment plantings in rows rather than orchards.

Dr Barbour says research in 2011 which compared four native Australian fruits found the Kakadu plum had strong cytoprotective properties and the greatest antioxidant activity through several mechanisms including free radical scavenging.

More information: "Aaron C. Tan, Izabela Konczak, Iqbal Ramzan, Daniel M.-Y. Sze, Antioxidant and cytoprotective activities of native Australian fruit polyphenols," Food Research International, Volume 44, Issue 7, August 2011, Pages 2034-2040, ISSN 0963-9969, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2010.10.023.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vitamin C-rich native fruit ripe for cash crop study

Dec 04, 2013

A wild Australian native fruit with 10 times more vitamin C than oranges and rich in healthy anti-oxidants will be studied by scientists led from The University of Western Australia to help develop as a potentially ...

Native fruits bear sweet antioxidants

Aug 02, 2007

Twelve native Australian fruits that are exceptional sources of antioxidants have been identified in research published in the journal Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies.

Recommended for you

Putting dementia carers in control

Sep 18, 2014

Experts will explore how improved support and powers for people caring for loved-ones with dementia can improve quality of life for both patients and carers around the UK.

Lilly, AstraZeneca team up on Alzheimer's drug

Sep 16, 2014

Eli Lilly and Co. plans to pay up to $500 million to fellow drugmaker AstraZeneca as part of a collaboration to develop and sell a potential Alzheimer's disease treatment that is in the early stages of clinical testing.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Egleton
not rated yet Mar 11, 2014
The apple was a small green bitter fruit in Roman times- Genetic selection could improve the taste and appearance of this fruit.
Vic_Cherikoff
not rated yet Mar 11, 2014
This is not the whole story. There are no single superfoods that will address all of our health issues no matter how nutritionally rich they are.. The take home facts are that traditional Aborigines relied on around 10 times the number of foods which were from 6 to 20 times more dense in key antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, enzyme regulators, minerals and when it comes to micro-sugars, some were exceptional sources whereas these essential nutrients are virtually absent from our foods today.

It is for this reason that I co-formulated Kakadu Complex (http://www.dining...s_id=60) which includes 11 Australian wild foods and 27 superfoods all up.

Our testimonials are amazing. Please do your research.