London: The key to beat Alzheimer`s and other degenerative diseases may lie in the humble Broccoli, scientists say.
Researchers at the Dundee University in Scotland found that sulforaphane, a chemical derived from the vegetable, can help keep the brain sharp into old age.
They hope that a drug based on sulforaphane, which is also found in rocket, Brussels sprouts and cabbages, can help kick-start the body`s own protective or antioxidant mechanisms which will protect vital brain cells from being attacked and destroyed by free radicals, the Daily Mail reported.
Anti-oxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can "mop up" the attackers, but are of limited use in the brain, the researchers said.
They believe that taking the chemical in pill form is likely to be more beneficial than simply eating bowl after bowl of broccoli.
This is because not everyone makes the same amount of sulforaphane, with some people making 10 times less than other despite eating the same amount of greens.
Study author Dr John Sharkey said: "For some people, eating large amounts of broccoli may have the biological effects we are looking for. But for many people, it won`t."
In a two-year study, Dr Sharkey plans to see whether the chemical slows or halts the progression of Alzheimer`s in mice genetically engineered to develop the disease.
The preliminary nature of the work means that even if it is successful, any sulforaphane-based drug is at least a decade from the market.
Similar drugs could also help tackle Parkinson?s disease, stroke and even cancer, said Dr Sharkey.
"Research is the only answer to dementia and we hope our work will open up new areas of research that could prove key to defeating Alzheimer`s disease."
Alzheimer`s other forms of dementia affect thousands of people worldwide and the number is expected to double in a generation as the population ages.
Existing pills such as Aricept can delay the progress of Alzheimer`s, but their failure to tackle the underlying cause in the brain means that their effect quickly wears off and the disease soon takes its devastating course.