Nutritional neuroscience. In spite of its relative small seize the brain consumes disproportionally high amounts of oxygen due to its high metabolic activity. In case of a deficit of antioxidants and antioxidant cellular mechanisms the high turnover of oxygen results in the production of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress. Damage of biomolecules such as fatty acids, proteins, or DNA results in impairment of cells, tissues and organs. Those deleterious effects accumulate especially in differentiated tissues like the brain. Strategies for long-term prevention from oxidative stress would also delay the onset of age related diseases.

A sufficient supply of micronutrients and secondary plant products, e.g. by functional food or supplementation represents a promising way for prevention. Insufficient penetration of the blood brain barrier is one problem of the preventive consumption of supplements or food enriched in secondary plant products. Recently, we reported potent antioxidative and cytoprotective properties of hydroxytyrosol, a ortho-diphenol in vitro, which is enriched in the polyphenolic fraction of olive oil. However, its protective properties were much smaller in dissociated brain cells isolated from brains of hydroxytyrosol feed mice. Hence, the modulation of neurochemical processes by biofunctional food represents a special challenge.

Nutraceuticals contain food ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals and isolated phytochemicals in a concentrated form and in parts in relatively high concentrations. Thus, the issue of food safety has to be considered beside the assessment of physiological effects. Moreover, regarding food physiological effects have to be discriminated from pharmacological effects. As food-chemist and pharmacologist with special expertise in toxicology, I believe to be qualified for a competent evaluation of biofunctional food.

Leads under investigation

In the focus of our scientific interests are: polyunsaturated fatty acids, Mediterranean plant extracts, billberry extract, and isolated secondary plant compounds, such as hydroxytyrosol, monoterpenes, or curcumin.

© Prof. Dr. Gunter P. Eckert 2018