A naturally occurring compound found in red grapes, raspberries, dark chocolate, and red wine may halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the results of a new trial suggests.

Resveratrol occurs in tiny amounts in foods, but when researchers gave trial participants large, 1-mg doses, the patients’ brains appeared to stop deteriorating. The inexpensive antioxidant can be purchased over the counter in most health food stores and online, and purer forms can be purchased from pharmacists. I would only recommend that you do a little research to separate the lower quality suppliers from the higher quality ones. [1]

The compound has been hailed in the past as a possible solution for cancer, diabetes, and many other conditions.

For the trial, researchers at 21 medical centers across the United States examined the safety and effectiveness of taking high doses of resveratrol in the form of an experimental pill in 119 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The amount given to the patients equaled the amount found in 1,000 glasses of wine.

After looking at several biomarkers of the disease, researchers found that patients who took as many as 4 pills a day for a year had higher levels of amyloid-beta proteins in their spinal fluid than those who took a placebo.

Amyloid-betas accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, but there tends to be less of the proteins outside of the brain. The findings suggest that resveratrol could shift amyloid-beta from the brain to circulating protein in the blood stream.

The difference was also visible from the outside; the group that received resveratrol showed improvement in dressing themselves, cooking, and using public transportation.

Individuals in the placebo group continued to show increased amyloid-beta proteins in their brains and failed to show improvement on cognitive tests.

The trial is too small to officially recommend that people start taking resveratrol, the scientists say, but they called the results “very interesting” and said further research should be done.

“Number one, we found that resveratrol was safe in older people with Alzheimer’s disease and number two, it looked like it may have had a beneficial effect on biomarkers and disease progression,” said Dr. Scott Turner, director of the memory disorders program at Georgetown University Medical Center, in Washington, DC.

“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 added.

According to Turner, a large, phase 3 clinical trial could start as early as next year that will hopefully determine whether patients taking resveratrol actually have lower levels of amyloid-beta plaques in their brains, and whether these patients experience less decline in their cognitive functioning.

Resveratrol was chosen for the trial because it activates sirtuin proteins, which are also triggered by calorie restriction. Animal studies have shown dementia and other age-related diseases can be prevented or delayed by cutting calories to 2/3 of the recommended level. [2]

James A. Hendrix, director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association, a research and advocacy organization, says that if resveratrol does prove to have a positive impact on Alzheimer’s disease, it will probably be used in combination with other medications that are currently available, such as Aricept and Exelon. Though no medication is a viable option to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s at this time.

A specific diet, exercise, as well as social and mental stimulation will most likely accompany the drug cocktail.

Additional Sources:

[1] NZ Herald

[2] CNN


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.