Native plum likely new weapon against Alzheimer's

March 11, 2014 by Kerry Faulkner, Science Network WA
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.

Explore further: Trial set to determine Alzheimer's onset origins

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,

Related Stories

Trial set to determine Alzheimer's onset origins

November 19, 2013
A world-first clinical trial being conducted in WA is exploring whether testosterone and fish oil may prove to be the key in preventing or postponing Alzheimer's disease.

Recommended for you

Energy storehouses in the brain may be source of Alzheimer's, targets of new therapy

January 23, 2018
Alzheimer's disease, a severely debilitating and ultimately fatal brain disorder, affects millions worldwide. To date, clinical efforts to find a cure or adequate treatment have met with dispiriting failure.

Rocky start for Alzheimer's drug research in 2018

January 19, 2018
The year 2018, barely underway, has already dealt a series of disheartening blows to the quest for an Alzheimer's cure.

Alzheimer's disease: Neuronal loss very limited

January 17, 2018
Frequently encountered in the elderly, Alzheimer's is considered a neurodegenerative disease, which means that it is accompanied by a significant, progressive loss of neurons and their nerve endings, or synapses. A joint ...

Anxiety: An early indicator of Alzheimer's disease?

January 12, 2018
A new study suggests an association between elevated amyloid beta levels and the worsening of anxiety symptoms. The findings support the hypothesis that neuropsychiatric symptoms could represent the early manifestation of ...

One of the most promising drugs for Alzheimer's disease fails in clinical trials

January 11, 2018
To the roughly 400 clinical trials that have tested some experimental treatment for Alzheimer's disease and come up short, we can now add three more.

Different disease types associated with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains found in Alzheimer's patients

January 9, 2018
An international team of researchers has found different disease type associations with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains in the brains of dead Alzheimer's patients. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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.
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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.