Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 161–178 | Cite as

Effects of Polyphenols on Brain Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease: Focus on Mitochondria

  • Sebastian Schaffer
  • Heike Asseburg
  • Sabine Kuntz
  • Walter E. Muller
  • Gunter P. EckertEmail author


The global trend of the phenomenon of population ageing has dramatic consequences on public health and the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases. Physiological changes that occur during normal ageing of the brain may exacerbate and initiate pathological processes that may lead to neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer's disease (AD). Hence, the risk of AD rises exponentially with age. While there is no cure currently available, sufficient intake of certain micronutrients and secondary plant metabolites may prevent disease onset. Polyphenols are highly abundant in the human diet, and several experimental and epidemiological evidences indicate that these secondary plant products have beneficial effects on AD risks. This study reviews current knowledge on the potential of polyphenols and selected polyphenol-rich diets on memory and cognition in human subjects, focusing on recent data showing in vivo efficacy of polyphenols in preventing neurodegenerative events during brain ageing and in dementia. Concentrations of polyphenols in animal brains following oral administration have been consistently reported to be very low, thus eliciting controversial discussion on their neuroprotective effects and potential mechanisms. Whether polyphenols exert any direct antioxidant effects in the brain or rather act by evoking alterations in regulatory systems of the brain or even the body periphery is still unclear. To understand the mechanisms behind the protective abilities of polyphenol-rich foods, an overall understanding of the biotransformation of polyphenols and identification of the various metabolites arising in the human body is also urgently needed.


Polyphenols Brain ageing Alzheimer’s disease Mitochondria 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Schaffer
    • 1
  • Heike Asseburg
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sabine Kuntz
    • 2
  • Walter E. Muller
    • 3
  • Gunter P. Eckert
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Centre for Life SciencesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Institute of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of GiessenGiessenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Pharmacology, Biocenter, Campus RiedbergGoethe UniversityFrankfurtGermany

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