You’ve probably eaten a few pounds of orcein, aka C.I. Natural Red 28, in your time. It’s a red food-safe dye that’s used in everything from Twinkies to stains for bacterial cultures. But apparently, it may also be the key to fighting Alzheimer’s.
It works by fighting small toxic protein aggregates. These, over time, get bigger and become plaques, something that doesn’t sound awesome, but your brain actually seems to be OK with them. But it’s the seeds of these plaques that are the problem; researchers believe that their toxicity is what starts certain brain diseases.
Most of the research was focused on changing these aggregrates structurally to be less toxic, but orcein takes another tactic entirely: they step on the gas, turning the aggregates into plaques a lot faster, and reducing the brain’s exposure to those toxins.
It’ll be a while before we’re injecting food dye into our brains: animal testing hasn’t even launched yet. But there’s hope. And in the meantime, eat lots and lots of red stuff. We’re starting with the Twinkies.