Zinc (Zn) is abundantly present in the brain, and accumulates in the synaptic vesicles. Synaptic Zn is released with neuronal excitation, and plays essential roles in learning and memory. Increasing evidence suggests that the disruption of Zn homeostasis is involved in various neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, a vascular type of dementia, and prion diseases. Our and other numerous studies suggest that carnosine (β-alanyl histidine) is protective against these neurodegenerative diseases. Carnosine is an endogenous dipeptide abundantly present in the skeletal muscles and in the brain, and has numerous beneficial effects such as antioxidant, metal chelating, anti-crosslinking, and anti-glycation activities. The complex of carnosine and Zn, termed polaprezinc, is widely used for Zn supplementation therapy and for the treatment of ulcers. Here, we review the link between Zn and these neurodegenerative diseases, and focus on the neuroprotective effects of carnosine. We also discuss the carnosine level in various foodstuffs and beneficial effects of dietary supplementation of carnosine.
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