Researchers recently published in the journal Scientific Reports their findings on resveratrol, a compound present in foods such as peanuts and red grapes, and how it may offer protection towards memory decline caused by aging. The study is entitled “Resveratrol Prevents Age-Related Memory and Mood Dysfunction with Increased Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Microvasculature, and Reduced Glial Activation.”
Resveratrol is a natural phenol produced by several plants. It can be found in the skin of red grapes and in red wine, in blueberries, raspberries and also in peanuts. Resveratrol is thought to have antioxidant properties and has gained attention due to its reported antiaging, angiogenic, anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting benefits.
The research team led by Dr. Ashok K. Shetty from the Texas A&M Health Science Center studied the effects of resveratrol on the hippocampus, a region of the brain crucial for learning, memory and mood functions. Researchers found that resveratrol treatment for four weeks in aged rats seemed to improve their learning and memory aptitudes as well as their mood. “The results of the study were striking,” stated Dr. Shetty in a news release. “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.”
Aging is known to be associated with a diminished hippocampal neurogenesis, which refers to the growth and development of neurons. The team found that neurogenesis in rats given resveratrol approximately duplicated in comparison with control rats. Rats treated with resveratrol also exhibited a significant improvement in terms of microvasculature and blood flow, and a reduction 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,” said Dr. Shetty.
As part of the natural aging process, both humans and animals exhibit a gradual decrease in cognitive capacity. Increased neurogenesis and microvasculature combined with a reduction in the chronic inflammation in the hippocampus (all factors associated with aging) could potentially aid in preserving an adequate memory and mood function in the elderly. The team’s findings on resveratrol can therefore have implications in the prevention of memory loss in the elderly. In addition, resveratrol could potentially have a beneficial effect on severe neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers are now studying the molecular mechanisms behind the improvement in cognitive function seen after treatment with resveratrol. Studies will also be performed to determine whether it is possible that a diet supplemented with low doses of resveratrol for prolonged periods could be advantageous for an aging brain.