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      The neuroprotective potential of flavonoids: a multiplicity of effects

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          Abstract

          Flavonoids exert a multiplicity of neuroprotective actions within the brain, including a potential to protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, an ability to suppress neuroinflammation, and the potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive function. These effects appear to be underpinned by two common processes. Firstly, they interact with critical protein and lipid kinase signalling cascades in the brain leading to an inhibition of apoptosis triggered by neurotoxic species and to a promotion of neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity. Secondly, they induce beneficial effects on the vascular system leading to changes in cerebrovascular blood flow capable of causing angiogenesis, neurogenesis and changes in neuronal morphology. Through these mechanisms, the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods throughout life holds the potential to limit neurodegeneration and to prevent or reverse age-dependent loses in cognitive performance. The intense interest in the development of drugs capable of enhancing brain function means that flavonoids may represent important precursor molecules in the quest to develop of a new generation of brain enhancing drugs.

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          Most cited references121

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          Flavonoids: antioxidants or signalling molecules?

          Many studies are accumulating that report the neuroprotective, cardioprotective, and chemopreventive actions of dietary flavonoids. While there has been a major focus on the antioxidant properties, there is an emerging view that flavonoids, and their in vivo metabolites, do not act as conventional hydrogen-donating antioxidants but may exert modulatory actions in cells through actions at protein kinase and lipid kinase signalling pathways. Flavonoids, and more recently their metabolites, have been reported to act at phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase), Akt/protein kinase B (Akt/PKB), tyrosine kinases, protein kinase C (PKC), and mitogen activated protein kinase (MAP kinase) signalling cascades. Inhibitory or stimulatory actions at these pathways are likely to affect cellular function profoundly by altering the phosphorylation state of target molecules and by modulating gene expression. A clear understanding of the mechanisms of action of flavonoids, either as antioxidants or modulators of cell signalling, and the influence of their metabolism on these properties are key to the evaluation of these potent biomolecules as anticancer agents, cardioprotectants, and inhibitors of neurodegeneration
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            Vascular niche for adult hippocampal neurogenesis.

            The thin lamina between the hippocampal hilus and granule cell layer, or subgranule zone (SGZ), is an area of active proliferation within the adult hippocampus known to generate new neurons throughout adult life. Although the neuronal fate of many dividing cells is well documented, little information is available about the phenotypes of cells in S-phase or how the dividing cells might interact with neighboring cells in the process of neurogenesis. Here, we make the unexpected observation that dividing cells are found in dense clusters associated with the vasculature and roughly 37% of all dividing cells are immunoreactive for endothelial markers. Most of the newborn endothelial cells disappear over several weeks, suggesting that neurogenesis is intimately associated with a process of active vascular recruitment and subsequent remodeling. The present data provide the first evidence that adult neurogenesis occurs within an angiogenic niche. This environment may provide a novel interface where mesenchyme-derived cells and circulating factors influence plasticity in the adult central nervous system. Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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              (-)-Epicatechin mediates beneficial effects of flavanol-rich cocoa on vascular function in humans.

              Epidemiological and medical anthropological investigations suggest that flavanol-rich foods exert cardiovascular health benefits. Endothelial dysfunction, a prognostically relevant key event in atherosclerosis, is characterized by a decreased bioactivity of nitric oxide (NO) and impaired flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD). We show in healthy male adults that the ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa was associated with acute elevations in levels of circulating NO species, an enhanced FMD response of conduit arteries, and an augmented microcirculation. In addition, the concentrations and the chemical profiles of circulating flavanol metabolites were determined, and multivariate regression analyses identified (-)-epicatechin and its metabolite, epicatechin-7-O-glucuronide, as independent predictors of the vascular effects after flavanol-rich cocoa ingestion. A mixture of flavanols/metabolites, resembling the profile and concentration of circulating flavanol compounds in plasma after cocoa ingestion, induced a relaxation in preconstricted rabbit aortic rings ex vivo, thus mimicking acetylcholine-induced relaxations. Ex vivo flavanol-induced relaxation, as well as the in vivo increases in FMD, were abolished by inhibition of NO synthase. Oral administration of chemically pure (-)-epicatechin to humans closely emulated acute vascular effects of flavanol-rich cocoa. Finally, the concept that a chronic intake of high-flavanol diets is associated with prolonged, augmented NO synthesis is supported by data that indicate a correlation between the chronic consumption of a cocoa flavanol-rich diet and the augmented urinary excretion of NO metabolites. Collectively, our data demonstrate that the human ingestion of the flavanol (-)-epicatechin is, at least in part, causally linked to the reported vascular effects observed after the consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Genes & Nutrition
                Genes Nutr
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1555-8932
                1865-3499
                December 2008
                October 21 2008
                December 2008
                : 3
                : 3-4
                : 115-126
                Article
                10.1007/s12263-008-0091-4
                2593006
                18937002
                5ad35fe2-a201-42cb-a380-90629bc8440f
                © 2008

                http://www.springer.com/tdm


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