Your immune system can be your best friend – when it protects you from pathogens – or your worst nightmare when it goes on the blink. . .
. . .because misbehaving immune cells can cause as much harm to the body as any disease.
Your brain is particularly vulnerable to this type of destruction. When immune cells go on the rampage among the brain’s neurons – ramped up by inflammation – they can wreak havoc on the neurons that process your memories.
Thankfully, a certain nutrient in common foods can stop this process and make the brain less vulnerable to impairment.
Evidence to support this important nutrient comes to us from the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Researchers there determined that when malfunctions occur in a gene called TDP-43 in the brain’s immune scavenger cells – called microglia — these cells develop a runaway appetite.
When they’re functioning as they should, microglia gobble up material that can harm neurons, but when they get out of whack they also devour the connections between neurons – the synapses that allow neurons to communicate with each other.1
Imagine if you called up your cable TV company to fix the reception on your television, but the repair person who arrived went through your house chopping up the connecting wires instead. That’s more or less what these misguided microglia do to synapses.
Aside from what it can do to your brain, scientists in Germany have found that other nervous tissue in the body is vulnerable to similar immune system harm as we age. In a German lab study on animals, the scientists discovered that nerves that control grip strength can accumulate large numbers of cells called endoneurial macrophages (similar to the brain’s microglia) as the animals get older. When the macrophages start eating away at the nerves, the animals lose grip strength and control of muscles.
But in this experiment, when the macrophage population around the nerve tissue was thinned out, strength and muscle control improved.2
Luteolin to the Rescue!
One of your best bets to fight back against these immune system malfunctions is to consume foods that contain luteolin, a special kind of plant pigment. Rich sources of this nutrient include celery, peppers, rosemary, olive oil, carrots, chamomile and peppermint.
According to researchers at the University of Illinois, luteolin can drastically slow down the release of substances in the brain called cytokines that spur inflammation and overactive microglia.
And in lab tests, the Illinois scientists discovered that luteolin could improve learning and the recall of memories. Luteolin made older brains function more like younger brains, with fewer inflammatory substances in brain tissue.3
Supporting these findings, researchers in Germany have discovered that luteolin can produce epigenetic effects in microglia – i.e. this nutrient can change the function of genes that control microglial behavior. As a result, the microglia become anti-inflammatory. Under luteolin’s influence microglia take on antioxidant duties in the brain and work to protect neurons and their synapses — instead of threatening their existence.4
A wealth of other research is piling up showing that luteolin also:
- Protects the blood-brain barrier: Tests in Asia demonstrate luteolin’s role in maintaining this barrier and keeping toxins and other undesirable particles in the blood from entering the brain.5
- Defends against depression: Research in Japan suggests that luteolin may reduce the chances of depression by altering the function of mitochondria in nerve cells.6
- Helps slow down the harm to neurons caused by Parkinson’s disease: An investigation in India shows that luteolin can reduce free radical damage to dopamine-producing neurons when Parkinson’s disease strikes.7
One thing I’d like to add to all of these benefits – along with the help that luteolin gives your brain, when you eat a diet rich in many different fruits and vegetables, other natural compounds in those foods may make luteolin’s influence on your brain even better.
For example, a study at the University of Massachusetts shows that sulforaphane – a natural substance found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage – multiplies the anti-inflammatory effects of luteolin.8
So if you eat some celery or peppers for their luteolin, eat them in a salad – that’s a no-brainer!
Or if you’re like me and use supplements, you may want to consider Advanced Brain Power from our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions. Advanced Brain Power contains a clinical dose of luteolin plus a host of other valuable brain nutrients.