Other Mechanisms For Neuroprotective Actions By Soy And Other Phytochemicals

This chapter has dealt with the potential for soy isoflavones to have potential benefit in the primate brain, in particular against brain protein modifications that are linked with AD pathology. Future experiments are important to understand both the molecular basis of human dementia and the protective actions of physiological estrogen and phytochemicals, such as the soy isoflavones, in either mimicking or complementing estrogen action. Recent experiments suggest that soy isoflavones undergo halogenation in inflammatory situations where neutrophils are stimulated to release a respiratory burst of hypochlorous acid (Boersma et al., 1999). This modification may enhance the ability of soy isoflavones to protect against oxidative damage under inflammatory conditions (Boersma et al., 1999).

Given that the brain is a primary site for aging-related oxidations, and that oxidative stress is a risk factor for AD (Joseph et al., 1998), it is important to examine protein oxidations in animal models of ovariectomy-induced cognitive dysfunction, and brains (i.e., the primate brain) from animals treated with either estrogen-replacement or soy, to determine the extent to which protein oxidations are attenuated by estrogen, and which of these are also affected by soy isoflavones. In this context, it is important to note that Joseph and coworkers showed that dietary supplementation of rodent diets with dietary plant extracts high in antioxidant activity (blueberries, spinach, strawberries) significantly protected against age-related cognitive dysfunction (Joseph et al., 1998). These studies and others (including ours) strongly suggest that certain food components may be essential for maintaining the health of the brain and other tissues, particularly late in life. Thus, modern research in "functional foods" and especially in the area of phytochemicals, may redefine "eating healthy." However, with the plethora of nonregulated botanicals-based dietary supplements currently available to the American consumer, research must define the phytochem-icals that truly offer benefits, corresponding dosages and toxicity issues. Both consumers and health professionals must become better informed as to these parameters, if long-term benefits are to be truly gained from consumption of isolated phyto-chemicals, or even botanical extracts such as from blueberries or strawberries.

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