How Carnosine Protects Against Age-Related DiseaseJanuary 2006
By Edward R. Rosick, DO, MPH, MS
Staving Off Neurodegeneration
Currently available pharmaceutical medications prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease do nothing to combat the damage caused by amyloid beta or oxidative stress, two key factors in the genesis of this devastating illness. Experimental studies, however, suggest that carnosine can help protect against both. By protecting the brain against free radical and AGE-induced damage, carnosine may provide a way to treat and manage Alzheimer’s disease.10,28-30
One early study examined the ways in which carnosine may protect the brain against the toxic effects of malondialdehyde, an end product of lipid peroxidation.29 Using cultured rat brain cells, researchers showed that carnosine not only protected the brain cells against malondialdehyde-induced toxicity, but also inhibited malondialdehyde-induced protein cross-linking.
More recently, researchers examined carnosine’s protective effects against amyloid beta.30 Using cultured rat brain cells, they showed that introducing amyloid beta to the culture caused significant toxic effects. The researchers then showed that damage to the brain cells could be substantially decreased by adding carnosine to the mixture. “We postulate that the mechanism of carnosine protection [of brain cells] lies in its anti-glycating and antioxidant activities, both of which are implicated in neuronal and endothelial cell damage during Alzheimer’s disease,” the researchers noted. “Carnosine may therefore be a useful therapeutic agent.”
Combating Heart Disease
Americans spend billions each year on expensive drugs designed to ward off and treat the secondary effects of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, these costly, doctor-prescribed medications do nothing to prevent cardiac damage induced by AGEs and free radicals.
Multiple lines of study now indicate that carnosine may be a highly beneficial nutrient for people with heart disease.12,14,31,32 In a review article examining the role of free radicals and AGEs in atherosclerosis, researchers carefully outlined the ways in which oxidative damage and AGE toxicity can contribute to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, a hallmark of heart disease.12 They then examined ways to impede plaque formation, concluding, “AGE inhibitors . . . will also inhibit the chemical modifications of proteins during lipid peroxidation reactions, and will prove useful in the treatment of atherosclerosis.”
The theory that AGE inhibitors such as carnosine may be a useful adjunct in both preventing and treating heart disease has been borne out in animal research as well. In two studies using dogs, researchers showed that AGE-induced changes led to decreased heart function by contributing to collagen cross-linking.14,32 When this happens, heart blood vessels, as well as the heart muscle itself, lose elasticity and become less efficient. When old dogs received an AGE inhibitor, they demonstrated a marked decrease in heart muscle stiffness as well as improved overall cardiac function.
By protecting against both free radical-generated oxidative damage and AGE-generated cellular toxicity, carnosine helps to counteract numerous, potentially harmful biochemical processes associated with aging. Its diverse effects offer support for the aging brain and cardiovascular system, and may help to modulate processes that contribute to cancer. Carnosine’s remarkable spectrum of health benefits makes this versatile nutrient an essential component of any anti-aging program.
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