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JERUSALEM, (Xinhua) -- Cinnamon, a spice usually associated with sweet foods, contains properties that may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, and possibly offer a cure, according to a new Israeli study.
The neurodegenerative illness is characterized by gradual memory loss, which doctors attribute to an accumulation of beta amyloid, a fibrous protein aggregate, outside the brain's nerve cells. The World Health Organization says some 70,000 Israelis are currently diagnosed with the disease, out of 18 million worldwide.
A research team, headed by Michael Ovadia from Tel Aviv University's Zoology Department, recently isolated one of the ingredients in cinnamon, CEppt, and used it in a series of tests conducted on two-month-old lab mice that were raised with five aggressive strains of Alzheimer's-inducing genes.
The experiment's results, recently published in the PLoS ONE scientific journal, were impressive. Fed drinking water containing a CEppt solution over four months, researchers found that the disease's development was delayed, with additional trials showing that existing amyloids has been dissolved.
"The finding points at the possibility that the material found may not only prevent Alzheimer's but may also contain therapeutic qualities," Ovadia told the Ha'aretz newspaper.
"The discovery is exciting," Ovadia said. He said that while some companies are developing synthetic materials to combat Alzheimer's, CEppt is a "natural and safe" material with no side effects.
Testing on humans, he said, may prove difficult owing to the disease's slow progression. The research team is now considering trying out the recent discovery on other animals.
Despite the optimistic news, Ovadia cautioned against excessive consumption of cinnamon, which can damage liver functions, and recommends consuming no more than 10 gram a day.
Meanwhile, the professor said that he and his students have begun implementing the study's findings with a daily cup of tea mixed with a cinnamon stick.