Individuals in their initial stages of Alzheimer's can now benefit from consuming butter enriched with a special fatty acid extracted from milk.
Tests showed a diet rich in the modified butter increases the activity of an enzyme linked to memory and reduces damage caused by the disease to this function, said the University of Sao Paulo (USP).
The results of the project, authored by researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at USP, were featured in the latest edition of the international scientific Journal of Neural Transmission
According to the researchers, conjugated linoleic acid, an acid extracted from dairy fats, helps the body to increase activity of phospholipase A2, an enzyme that acts on memory, in the brain.
The enzyme acts directly on the fats that make up cell membranes, which, among other functions, helps in memory formation.
In healthy patients, these membranes are flexible and are renewed periodically but the carriers of Alzheimer's are rigid, hinder the release of fatty acids, and cannot be replaced at the same rate.
"We saw that the action of this enzyme is altered in Alzheimer's patients, so we began to analyze how we could alter the metabolism of A2 phospholipase in these patients," explained Leda Talib, the head of the Neurosciences Laboratory of the USP, who coordinated the project.
Experiments with mice, which began five years ago, showed the treatment is effective in patients in early stages of the disease, but researchers are trying to determine whether it can also prevent the disease.
"When the symptoms begin to appear it is because the disease is already established. We do not know at what point it begins, but we will investigate to determine whether the treatment can also be preventive," she said.
Talib added there needs to be more experiments with mice to establish the collateral effects of the modified butter diet, before clinical trials on humans can begin.
"We need to establish whether this diet may cause damage to your health," she concluded.