Green Apples and Your Brain

When I was chopping up green apples to put into my chicken salad I wondered two things:
1) Does anyone else realize that apples are brain food?
2) Do all of you see your food as “medicine” or am I just slightly neurotic?

When I eat avocados all I can think of is glutathione!
Sprinkle cayenne and voila, capsaicin!
Tomatoes, lycopene.
Tossed salad, methyl folate!
Almonds, aspirin.
Ok, I think it’s just me, let’s move on.

Green apples are rich in a bioflavonoid called quercetin, which is found in many other fruits and veggie. Think of quercetin like you would vitamin C, it’s a citrus bioflavonoid better known to support vein and capillary health. It’s often found in spider vein formulas.

In the body, Quercetin acts like natural Claritin and Ibuprofen all at once. In other words, it’s a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. To boot, it has natural antiviral and anti-fungal properties. Research backs the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Today, I want to highlight green apples because they are my absolute favorite. Did you know sourness of a green apple is due to malic acid? And malic acid (or malate) is helpful for muscle pain?

Pretty awesome.

A study published in the journal, Neurochemical Research in 2014 evaluated mitochondrial health in the brain as well as mechanisms that might prevent plaques from developing which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. 

We know that in Alzheimer’s patients, beta amyloid plaques in the brain cause mitochondrial stress and affect functioning of these ATP generators. Plaques make a mess of the most fragile tissue you have, you’re brain!  The amyloid plaques gum up ATP machinery as if you were putting Elmer’s in your gas tank! Long story short, memory is dampened, learning is stunted and you develop poor concentration, reduced comprehension and brain fog. It’s all from the oxidative stress in your brain and in part, the beta amyloid plaques. BDNF levels may also play a role, but that is not today’s topic.

Let me back track a moment. Your mitochondria or “mito” are tiny organelles inside your cells that produce energy molecules for you that we term ATP.  Even before that, ATP is produced in your body through lipid and glucose metabolism (fat and sugar). The body gets fat and sugar from meals but then it needs to be broken down into teeny weeny parts so you have energy in your life.

This reaction is dependent on an enzyme called AMPK, which is a master switch. AMPK stands for “5′ adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase” which is precisely why we dub it AMPK!  It’s the gas pedal in terms of how fast you turn that cheesecake into energy. AMPK turns fat and sugar into fuel. AMPK enzyme is found in trillions of cells throughout your body. What does this have to do with green apples and quercetin? I’m getting there, hold on.

When you run low on your AMPK enzyme, or the pathway is blocked, then energy production ceases, the formation of healthy new mitochondria slows down and your blood sugar balance falls apart.

In order to prevent this onslaught of dysfunction, researchers studied the effects of quercetin on mice with Alzheimer’s. The mice were genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s disease in case you are trying to figure out how they found mice with dementia! 

So anyway, some pretty amazing things started happening when the mice were given quercetin over the course of 16 weeks. 

Some animals received the natural quercetin each day while others were given a dose of the famous Alzheimer’s medication called Aricept. The animals treated with the most quercetin (about 40 mg/kg of quercetin per day) had the most positive benefits. These mice had fewer problems learning tasks and they had a better memory. There was significant reduction in the amyloid plaque build-up too! Finally, their mitochondrial function was evaluated and it had improved. From this we can assume that there were  fewer free radicals within the mitochondria, hence better mito function. There was improved health and function of the mitochondria deep inside the hippocampus which is the memory center in the brain.  Everything I’ve been talking about so far, has had to do with the animals given quercetin, not Aricept.

Now for the gold nugget. Let’s circle back to the AMPK enzyme that I mentioned earlier.  AMPK triggers new growth of mitochondria and helps mitochondria convert food into fuel more efficiently. The study showed that AMPK enzyme activity was markedly increased in the mice given quercetin (not Aricept).  When the AMPK activity was increased with quercetin treatment, it slowed plaque build-up and even better, there was less mitochondrial dysfunction. Scientists know that when this master switch of AMPK is flipped, your mitochondria respond. Additionally, microglial cell activity improves, inflammation goes down, and blood sugar balance improves.

So even though it was just rodents, I feel like my chicken salad with apples gives me an advantage in my quest for better mito health. Quercetin proved to reduce Alzheimer’s difficulties in the critters so I think it will help me too.
Regardless of my opinion, this research gives us an entry point to how to reverse, or perhaps even prevent dangerous plaque build-up in the brain and how to rebirth healthy mitochondria. Quercetin is a wonderful bioflavonoid sold at health food stores as a supplement. It naturally occurs in apples, red onions, black and green tea, raspberries, cranberries, citrus, and green leafy veggies.