A natural antioxidant found in red grapes, peanuts, and mulberries may help ward off age-related memory decline, according to a new study.
Resveratrol, also found in cocoa powder, blueberries, bilberries and cranberries, has been well publicized for its potential to prevent heart disease.
Researchers at Texas A&M University are saying it also has positive effects on the hippocampus, an area of the brain vital to functions like memory, learning, and mood.
Red wine contains between 0.2 and 5.8 mg/l of resvertrol, depending on the grape variety, with the highest concentration seen in red wines. Interestingly, wine has roughly twice the average resveratrol concentration of the equivalent juices.
Implications for Alzheimer’s Disease
The study reports that resveratrol offers apparent benefits in terms of learning, memory, and mood function in aged rats.
Since humans and animals both show a decline in cognitive capacity following middle age, the findings may have implications for treating memory loss in the elderly. Researchers say resveratrol may even be able to help people afflicted with severe neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Decreased function in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus has been considered as one of the key reasons for memory and mood dysfunction seen in old age.
The dentate gyrus shows a novel form of neural circuit plasticity all through life called “adult hippocampus neurogenesis” Interestingly, neurons that are born in the adult DG play important roles in memory and mood function.
For the reason that aging is linked to greatly diminished hippocampal neurogenesis, the idea that declined neurogenesis contributes to memory and mood dysfunction in the aged population has emerged. The concept has been supported by multiple studies
Ashok K. Shetty, professor of molecular and cellular medicine at Texas A&M University said:
The results of the study were striking. They indicated that for the control rats who did not receive resveratrol, spatial learning ability was largely maintained but ability to make new spatial memories significantly declined between 22 and 25 months. By contrast, both spatial learning and memory improved in the resveratrol-treated rats.”
Resveratrol and Neurogenesis
Neurogenesis is the growth and development of neurons. in rats that were given resveratrol, neurogenesis approximately doubled compared with the control rats.
The treated rats also had notably improved microvasculature. This indicates improved blood flow. They also had a lower level of chronic inflammation in the hippocampus.
The study provides novel evidence that resveratrol treatment in late middle age can help improve memory and mood function in old age,” Shetty says.
Modulation of the hippocampus plasticity and suppression of chronic low-level inflammation appear to underlie the functional benefits seen with resveratrol.