Mol Neurobiol 2013 Oct 28;48(2):353-62. Epub 2013 Jun 28.
Research, Innovation and Development, Sigma-tau SpA, Via Pontina km 30,400, 00040, Pomezia, Rome, Italy,
Diet in human health is no longer simple nutrition, but in light of recent research, especially nutrigenomics, it is linked via evolution and genetics to cell health status capable of modulating apoptosis, detoxification, and appropriate gene response. Nutritional deficiency and disease especially lack of vitamins and minerals is well known, but more recently, epidemiological studies suggest a role of fruits and vegetables, as well as essential fatty acids and even red wine (French paradox), in protection against disease. In the early 1990s, various research groups started considering the use of antioxidants (e.g., melatonin, resveratrol, green tea, lipoic acid) and metabolic compounds (e.g., nicotinamide, acetyl-L-carnitine, creatine, coenzyme Q10) as possible candidates in neuroprotection. They were of course considered on par with snake oil salesman (women) at the time. The positive actions of nutritional supplements, minerals, and plant extracts in disease prevention are now mainstream and commercial health claims being made are subject to regulation in most countries. Apart from efficacy and finding, the right dosages, the safety, and especially the level of purification and lack of contamination are all issues that are important as their use becomes widespread. From the mechanistic point of view, most of the time these substances replenish the body's deficiency and restore normal function. However, they also exert actions that are not sensu stricto nutritive and could be considered pharmacological especially that, at times, higher intake than recommended (RDA) is needed to see these effects. Free radicals and neuroinflammation processes underlie many neurodegenerative conditions, even Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Curcumin, carotenoids, acetyl-L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, vitamin D, and polyphenols and other nutraceuticals have the potential to target multiple pathways in these conditions. In summary, augmenting neuroprotective pathways using diet and finding new natural substances that can be more efficacious, i.e., induction of health-promoting genes and reduction of the expression of disease-promoting genes, could be incorporated into neuroprotective strategies of the future.