The antioxidant resveratrol is most often associated with red wine, although it is also found in peanuts, chocolate, and other fruits in addition to grapes. It has been linked to better heart health, anti-aging effects and even (in limited laboratory studies) cancer-fighting properties. A study published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience has released the first evidence that resveratrol improves memory and brain function in elderly people.
The improvement in memory occurred in parallel with an improvement in glucose metabolism—the way the body breaks down sugar. Researchers compared 46 people between 50 and 75 years old, who were given either a resveratrol supplement or a placebo pill for 26 weeks. Before and after the 26-week intervention, they tested the participants’ memory (by measuring their recollection of words they had been told 30 minutes earlier) and used brain imaging to measure the size and connectivity of a brain area called the hippocampus, which is critical for our ability to form memories. They also did blood tests to measure participants’ metabolism and markers of inflammation. The participants who took resveratrol lost body fat, showed an improvement in glucose control (poor glucose control is linked to type 2 diabetes), and scored better on the memory test compared to participants who were given a placebo.
Brain imaging also revealed that the connectivity between memory centers in their brains (hippocampus and frontal cortex) had increased. This trial is small and preliminary, but its results are promising—resveratrol might represent a new strategy to prevent brain aging.
(Source: Journal of Neuroscience June 2014, doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0385-14.2014, Pubmed)