Resveratrol and the aging brain, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Huntingdon’s disease.

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Last week I wrote a general blog on resveratrol, a potent anti-oxidant found in red wine and which is gaining increasing renown for its anti-aging properties.  In the blog I briefly covered the fact that it is very good for the brain, both preventing and helping reverse neurodegenerative conditions. This blog goes into a little more detail.

The above video on Alzheimer’s disease helps explain what happens in the brain of someone with the disease.  There is a build up of plaque in the brain which is usually referred to as amyloid-β.  It starts in the hippocampus, the brains chief memory store.  Scientists are not sure why amyloid-β builds up in the brain, but suspicion is falling on chronic sleep deprivation1 .  So, please, get enough sleep.  Prevention is always better than a cure.  There are several easily found research papers showing the positive effect of resveratrol on amyloid-β of not only preventing this plaque build up but also reducing its levels23 . So although the above video says there are no effective drugs yet, there is resveratrol.

As the above video describes, Tau proteins also get scrambled in Alzheimers, and the linked article from Oct 2011 Alzheimer’s Weekly  goes into the good effects of resveratrol on this.

Chapter 3 of Anti-Aging Therapeutics4 by Richard A Baxter also confirms the excellent effect of resveratol, and red wine in general, on plaque in the brain both to clear it and prevent its deposition.  He also says it is positively active in the learning and memory centres of the brain.

In the previous blog, I drew on research by Lagouge which showed

a significant improvement in motor co-ordination and traction force, as well as enhanced aerobic performance in resveratrol treated mice, suggesting a potential beneficial neuronal effect of resveratrol.  In the brain, PGC-1α deficiency in mice lead to certain behavioural abnormalities, including profound hyper-activity with neurodegeneration, reminiscent of Huntingdon’s disease.  Interestingly, we noticed a significant drop in spontaneous locomotor activity in resveratrol treated mice.5

So here we see how resveratrol helps Huntingdon’s disease.  It not only impacts on the brain degeneration, it also impacts on energy production6, which is severely disrupted in Huntingdon’s sufferers.  I had a dear friend who had Huntingdon’s and she was indeed hyper active in a distressingly wobbly kind of way.

This same research paper also found that resveratrol offered “remarkable protection against axonal degeneration, afforded by SIRT1 activation”.

The axon is number 1.

Nerve impulses travel down axons, so it is important to keep them healthy.  As the previous blog went into, the SIRT1 gene is the anti-aging gene and much of resveratrol’s good effect is due to turning this gene on.

In dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions, another cause of the problems is in the lower propagation or increase of nerve impulses.  The neurotransmitter involved here is acetylcholine and acetylcholine not only works in the brain but also in the muscles in the body to tell them to fire.  No acetylcholine, no movement, no thoughts; nothing.  Here is a short clip with an animation of the antagonist to acetylcholine, called acetycholinesterase, which terminates the impulse to the nerve.  The first part is what should happen in a healthy body and brain, the second is what happens as the brain degenerates.

Footnote 3 refers to research that found that resveratrol effectively inhibited acetylcholinesterase.  So taking resveratrol will help the brain speed up and the muscles contract properly.

Resveratrol is an excellent supplement to take for many reasons.  Clearly it has very exciting brain protective properties.  Taking a glass of red wine in the evening will help also, for a good chewy red wine contains other anti-oxidants as well, such as quercitin and procyanins which are also beneficial for brain health.  Although any alcoholic drink in moderation is good for us for the relaxing properties, the tipple with the most health benefits, bar none, is red wine; just make sure it is an aggressive little number.  Click on the link to read the blog on red wine.  However, for the full resveratrol full effect, supplements are best and the supplement should be the trans-resveratrol and not the cis-resveratrol.  How much to take is actually individual, 250mg being the standard recommended dose.  So a resveratrol pill in the morning and a glass of Madiran wine in the evening and we’ll be able to take the London Taxi driver’s knowledge test at the age of 85, no problems, especially if we have not neglected our need for sleep.

 

 

  1. Anekonda TS. Resveratrol – a boon for treating Alzheimer’s disease.  Review.  Brain Research Review 52 (2006) 316-326 []
  2. Marambaud P, Zhao H, Davies P.  Resveratrol promotes clearance of Alzheimer’s disease amyloid-β peptides.  Journ Biol Chem vol 280 No 45 pp37377 – 37382 Nov 11 2005 []
  3. Jang MH et al.  Inhibition of cholinesterase and amyloid-β aggregation by resveratrol oligomers from Vitis Amurensis.  Phytotherapy Research 22: 544-549. doi:10.1002/ptr.2406.  Apr 2008 Abstr []
  4. Anti-Aging Therapeutics.  Ed Dr Ronald Klatz and Dr Robert Goldman. []
  5. Lagouge et al.  Resveratrol improves mitochondrial function and protects against metabolic disease by activating SIRT1 and PGC-1α.  Cell (2006), doi 10.1016/j.cell.2006.11.013 []
  6. the PGC-1α deficiency referred to. Link is to Wikipedia.  Good luck. []

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