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Resveratrol may protect people with Alzheimer’s disease

Sep 14, 2015

Resveratrol may protect people with Alzheimer’s disease

Resveratrol, already the focus of a number of studies on brain health, may be an effective way to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In previous studies from the University of Reading in the UK and another from the Max Plank Institute in Germany, Resveratrol improved the efficiency of the brain in young healthy people and restored connectivity for important regions of the brain used for memory, learning and executive skills in elderly people; both studies showing the supplement is very safe.   

Resveratrol, found in very small amounts in red wine, has been praised over the years as a possible remedy, or at least helpful for multiple serious conditions and diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, cancers and diabetes, just to name a few. Recently, the first large study in Alzheimer’s patients proposes that, in concentrated doses, Resveratrol may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease; they used an extremely high potency but synthetic form in the study and unfortunately it did not include the associated nutrients Quercetin and Grape Seed Extract. Researchers from 21 medical centers across the United States including Georgetown University, Yale, and the Mayo Clinic have examined the safety and have started the process of  examining the effectiveness of high doses of Resveratrol in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The main goal of the study which included 119 patients was to find out whether high doses of Resveratrol are safe. Researchers looked at several biological measures of Alzheimer’s and discovered that people who took high doses for a year, had a higher level of amyloid-beta protein in their spinal fluid than those who took a placebo pill. Amyloid-beta proteins are toxic proteins that build up and destroy brain tissue in Alzheimer’s patients; they are the main components of the plaque found in the brain that is a hallmark of the disease. Normally the level of this protein drops in the spinal fluid of these patients because it gets stuck in the Alzheimer’s stricken brain. The study’s findings suggest that Resveratrol could help reverse this trend, making the sticky protein more water soluble, converting it to a more easily disposable form and the brain can once again discard it via the spinal fluid.

Dr. R. Scott Turner, professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center and lead investigator of the study explained, “The study is encouraging enough that we should certainly go ahead and do a [larger] clinical trial because we showed that it is safe and does have significant effects on Alzheimer’s biomarkers.” Turner also stated that a larger, phase 3 clinical trial of Resveratrol for Alzheimer’s disease could start in as soon as a year, as this study was a phase 2 trial that is meant to evaluate safety and early signs of efficacy.

The researchers did also see indications that Resveratrol could improve cognition, as well. No one (including the researchers) knew who was on Resveratrol or who was on placebo (a fake pill) because this was a double blinded, randomized study but certain patients showed slight improvements in their ability to carry out daily tasks (like remembering to brush their teeth) and these patients turned out to be in the Resveratrol group. Patients also told researchers they felt like they were better maintaining their mental ability; these also turned out to be in the Resveratrol group. Additionally, there was evidence that Resveratrol was decreasing inflammation in the brain because Alzheimer’s related brain swelling seemed to be subsiding. The four ventricles of the brain were also improving in health; these are the brain organs that produce cerebral spinal fluid. The fluid is responsible for acting as the conduit for removing toxins from the brain as well as feeding and shielding the brain from bumps and bruises.

If future studies on Resveratrol continue to expose its great benefits, Dr. Turner adds, it may be a great addition to medications already available, like Aricept and Exelon, which help to support memory but do not slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately, a combination of several drugs, diet, and exercise, social and mental stimulation may help stop the rapid decline of mental health seen in those with Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Giulio M. Pasinetti, Saunders Family Chair and professor in neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says that this is one of the first studies to show that Resveratrol is probably getting into the brain. In addition, Resveratrol may not work as well on its own as it would with a combination of other polyphenol compounds found in grape seed extract, which could help those at risk and those who already have mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. *This study was published online, September 11, 2015 in the Journal of Neurology.