The word dementia describes a class of heterogeneous diseases which etiopathogenetic mechanisms are not well understood. There are different types of dementia, among which, Alzheimer's disease (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are the more common. Currently approved pharmacological treatments for most forms of dementia seem to act only on symptoms without having profound disease-modifying effects. Thus, alternative strategies capable of preventing the progressive loss of specific neuronal populations are urgently required. In particular, the attention of researchers has been focused on phytochemical compounds that have shown antioxidative, anti-amyloidogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic properties and that could represent important resources in the discovery of drug candidates against dementia. In this review, we summarize the neuroprotective effects of the main phytochemicals belonging to the polyphenol, isothiocyanate, alkaloid and cannabinoid families in the prevention and treatment of the most common kinds of dementia. We believe that natural phytochemicals may represent a promising sources of alternative medicine, at least in association with therapies approved to date for dementia.
Keywords: alkaloids; cannabinoids; dementia; isothiocyanates; phytochemicals; polyphenols.