Polysaccharides show “genuine” potential as neuroprotective therapeutic, researchers stress

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

© vovashevchuk / Getty Images
© vovashevchuk / Getty Images

Related tags neurodegeneration gut-brain axis Polysaccharide

A new review reveals the significant neuroprotective properties of dietary polysaccharides, attributing their actions to the key mechanisms of oxidative stress reduction, neuronal production, metabolic regulation, and gut barrier integrity promotion.

Specifically, polysaccharides were found to prevent neurodegenerative diseases within models of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinsons disease (PD) through the reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation, and the regulation of the HPA axis and neurotransmitter system.

The Chinese researchers conclude: “Together, these comprehensive findings emphasize the critical role of oxidative stress as a key factor in the development of CNS diseases. Dietary polysaccharides are potential therapeutic agents for alleviating these diseases due to their outstanding antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

“Notably, dietary polysaccharides can also exert beneficial effects by regulating the composition of gut microbiota and its metabolites, protecting the integrity of the intestinal mucosal barrier, and affecting gut-brain communication.

Neurological disorders

Disorders of the central nervous system (CNS) are a growing public health concern, accounting for more than 11% ​of the overall disease burden in high-income countries. Such disorders are complex and despite recent scientific advancements into the area, patient quality of life is still significantly impacted​.  

Thus, the interest in this area remains substantial and scientists are continuously searching for effective therapeutic strategies to reduce disease burden. In recent years, the interest in the potential of natural plant compounds as an intervention strategy has been significant​.

Polysaccharides have been particularly of interest due to their multiple health benefits and potential mechanisms of action​ to improve neurological disorders, such as their significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective activities.

With a lack of current systematic reviews exploring the protective effects of polysaccharides against CND diseases, the present research sought to bridge this gap in understanding.


The researchers collated studies from the databases of PubMed, Web of Science, and Google Scholar, focusing on the key health areas of AD, PD, depression, anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder, stroke, and epilepsy.

It was determined that at least four categories of mechanistic bases were involved in the action of polysaccharides against CNS disease. These were found to include oxidative stress reduction, neuronal production, metabolic regulation, and gut barrier integrity.

Specifically, polysaccharides were found to resist oxidation and modulate the gut microbiota, which enabled for the potential prevention of CNS diseases at an early stage.

In models of neurodegenerative diseases, such as PD and AD, dietary polysaccharides have been shown to provide neuroprotective effects through the reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation, the regulation of the HPA axis and neurotransmitter system, and the maintenance of the gut microbiota balance in psychiatric disorders such as depression.

Polymannuronic acid from brown seaweed was found to improve SCFA production and shift microbiome composition, whilst inulin intakes were noted to improve abundance of beneficial Bifidobacterium ​and Lactobacillus ​species in mice models.


The report emphasises the importance of the findings, which shed light onto the potential for polysaccharides interventions to prevent CNS diseases due to significant antioxidant and gut modulatory activities.

The report emphasises: “Notably, the ability of dietary polysaccharides to resist oxidation and modulate gut microbiota not only helps to curb the development of these diseases at an early stage, but also holds promise for the development of novel therapeutic agents for CNS diseases.”

Yet they emphasise that despite the array of diseases explored in the present research, the full range of CNS related disorders that may benefit from polysaccharides remains unexplored. Thus, they urge for further research to investigate these conditions further. In addition, they stress the need for the findings to be confirmed within human RCTs.



Source: Frontiers in Nutrition


“Unveiling the neuroprotective potential of dietary polysaccharides: a systematic review”

Rui Guo, Jingxi Pang, Junhe Zhao, Xiao Xiao, Jing Li, Jingmeng Li, Wenxiu Wang, Shuang Zhou, Yu Zhao, Zilong Zhang, Hongwang Chen, Tian Yuan, Shan Wu and Zhigang Liu

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