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Can resveratrol preserve brain health during the aging process?

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  • Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound found in red wine has lead scientists to explore the possible health benefits. It is believed that resveratrol may help explain the “French Paradox.”

    Resveratrol has been shown to increase memory performance in primates; however, studies in older adults are lacking.

    Dr. Veronica Witte, PhD, at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Universitätsmedizin Berlin and colleagues tested whether supplementation of resveratrol would enhance memory performance in older adults and addressed potential mechanisms underlying this effect.

    The study included 23 overweight adults matched with 23 participants for the control group; aged 50 to 57 years and 18 participants were female. Twenty-three adults had completed 26 weeks of resveratrol intake at 200 mg/day and the control group received a placebo.

    Before and after the intervention/control period, subjects underwent memory tasks and neuroimaging to assess volume, microstructure, and functional connectivity (FC) of the hippocampus, a key region implicated in memory functions. In addition researchers also examined anthropometry, glucose and lipid metabolism, inflammation, neurotrophic factors and vascular parameters.

    The results showed the participants who had taken resveratrol had remembered more worlds on a list in 30 minutes compared to those who had taken the placebo. The resveratrol group also showed faster performance in the hippocampus; the region of the brain associated primarily to memory. Blood tests had shown reduced blood sugar markers , body fat and increased leptin; a hormone that regulates metabolism and body weight compared to those who taken the placebo.

    The researchers write “This study provides initial evidence that supplementary resveratrol improves memory performance in association with improved glucose metabolism and increased hippocampal FC in older adults. Our findings offer the basis for novel strategies to maintain brain health during aging.”

    Dr. Joseph Baur, PhD, physiologist, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism and the Department of Physiology and not part of this study said the study shows modest but still notable improvements in cognitive function and sugar metabolism, as reported by Live Science.

    Still, the fact that the study involved overweight people "makes the detection of any benefit all the more impressive, but also suggests that the potential impact [of resveratrol] may be underestimated," said Dr. Baur.

    This study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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