(Oct. 3) A researcher in the United Kingdom is saying that compounds found in several fruits and vegetables — most notably broccoli — may be additional weapons in fighting Alzheimer ’s disease.

Research released Sept. 27 at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester has crucial implications in the possible prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s, said Peter Houghton, professor of pharmacognosy at King’s College London.

Extracts found in five fruits and vegetables — broccoli, potatoes, oranges, apples and radishes — were found to promote activity that work in a similar fashion as drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s, Houghton said.

“It’s just a first step,” Houghton said Sept. 28.

He said most drugs applied to the treatment of Alzheimer’s serve as inhibitors of acetyl cholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It has been previously suggested that some common vegetables might have anti-acetyl cholinesterase activity, but no detailed investigation ever has been carried out.

Broccoli was found to have the most potent anti-acetyl cholines-terase activity, and further tests identified the agents fueling this activity were glucosinolates, a group of compounds that are especially prevalent in the cabbage family.

Alzheimer’s is associated with reduced production of acetylcholine in the central nervous system. Enzyme inhibition means that the acetylcholine that is produced can act longer.

The new findings confirm this activity in all five of the fruits and vegetables studied, Houghton said.

The implications, in terms of whether consumers should eat more broccoli, for instance, are not yet clear, Houghton said.

Broccoli was found to have the most potent activity and was taken forward for further tests to identify the agent or agents responsible for this activity. These were found to be glucosinolates, a group of compounds found across the cabbage family.

All of which adds to a growing body of evidence that fruits and vegetables are building blocks in healthy diets, said Chris Filardo, manager of nutrition communications for the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del.

But a wait-and-see approach appears to be the best tack, said Bill Thies, vice president of medical and scientific affairs for the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association.

“It is clear that there is some sort of relationship between diet and Alzheimer’s disease,” Thies said. “It’s not quite clear whether it’s a direct relationship or whether it’s through the cardiovascular system or even that good health leads people to eat more fruits and vegetables. But, it is a statistical association that comes from epidemiologists that becomes perfectly clear.”