To answer your first question, Fisetin (pronounced fy-set-in) is a flavonol which is a class of flavonoids found in a number of plants and fruits or vegetables. They are antioxidants, and you may have seen some of the research on the flavonols in chocolate that are thought to help patients with mild cognitive impairment. Some other common sources of flavonols are onions, kale, lettuce, tomato, grapes, berries, tea and red wine. One of the rules of thumb is the greener the leaf, the more of the flavonols the plant will contain.
Back to fisetin. Some researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have published some scientific work based on animal studies that show promise for fisetin’s ability to protect the brain’s memory from the inexorable degradation of Alzheimer’s disease. They have done this in mice, and the scientists think that fisetin has a neuroprotective capability that helps the memories of mice in laboratory tests. The clinical test used three groups of mice. Two groups consisted of what are termed double-transgenic Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mice. The third group was the control, and these mice did not have the Alzheimer’s transgene.
Mice in one of the first two groups were fed fisetin at three months of age until they were nine months old. The other group received no fisetin. Scientists use a water maze as a standard test of mouse learning and memory. The mice without the fisetin did not perform well in the mazes. Those who had been fed the fisetin, however, performed as well as the mice in the control group. Tests were repeated again at 12 months of age, and the results were very much the same with the fisetin mice doing as well as the control mice.
Researchers are not prepared to jump immediately into human subject trials, but there is work underway to better understand at the molecular level how fisetin may be working on mouse brains. Ever hopeful, the scientists are also investigating whether fisetin offers any hope of actually reversing the neuro-degradation of AD.
What do we take away from this research? Well, animal studies cannot provide a sound rationale for all caregivers to go out and stock up on fisetin rich foods to help an older loved one forestall Alzheimer’s progression. But is it a good idea to encourage your older loved one to consume foods rich in antioxidants? probably yes, but as with any dietary, activity or medication change, always consult with your loved one’s provider.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to info@cr eativecaremanagement.com.