How Older Adults Benefit from Resveratrol
Older adults may enjoy some significant benefits from taking resveratrol, a polyphenol found mainly in red grapes and red wine, but also in blueberries and cranberries. Why do the authors of a new study say this plant component may help the aging brain?
Resveratrol and the brain
You may be most familiar with resveratrol as an antioxidant found in red wine and for the studies that have explored its impact on heart health. But resveratrol also has been named as a possible natural aid in brain health, including memory.
In this latest study, which appears in Neuroscience, the authors wanted to know the effect of resveratrol on brain function and memory in healthy overweight older adults. Twenty-three participants (ages 50-75) took 200 mg daily of the natural supplement for 26 weeks while another 23 age-similar individuals took a placebo.
All of the volunteers participated in memory tests before and after the active portion of the study as well as several other tests, including imaging of the brain and measurement of lipids, glucose, neurotrophic factors (proteins involved in neuron development and survival), and vascular measures.
Here’s what the authors found:
- Use of resveratrol resulted in a significant impact on the ability to remember words over 30 minutes compared with placebo
- Resveratrol users showed a significant increase in functional connectivity of the hippocampus. That’s the area of the brain involved with the formation, organization, and storage of memory.
- Decline in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and body fat, which are positive signs regarding diabetes
- Increase in levels of leptin, which is a hormone that regulates how much fat is stored in the body and also helps with weight loss and suppression of food intake
Overall, the authors concluded that their findings provided evidence that use of resveratrol supplements can enhance memory along with better hippocampus function and improved glucose metabolism. These are all positive factors for a healthy aging brain.
Other ways to help the aging brain
Various lifestyle habits and changes can help maintain and support brain health in older adults. Here are a few suggestions:
- Check your medications. Scores of over-the-counter and prescription medications can have a negative impact on memory and brain function. Since older adults are more likely to take multiple drugs, this can pose a significant problem with memory.
- Laugh. Research suggests that laughter can help ward off memory loss.
- Meditate. Several studies have noted improvement in memory among people who practice meditation, including older adults. In fact, a recent study in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (mindfulness is a type of meditation practice) was helpful in older adults who suffered from clinical worry symptoms and cognitive problems.
- Consider pterostilbene. This antioxidant is a chemical cousin of resveratrol. Some research has indicated that pterostilbene is better than resveratrol when it comes to assisting with brain function.
- Watch your diet. Food choices, such as high cholesterol items and junk foods, can contribute to memory problems. A focus on a Mediterranean style diet can help preserve brain function. Be sure to include lots of berries to help your memory as well!
- Exercise. That means you need to involve both your body and your mind. Staying physically and mentally active can help preserve memory.
One of the biggest worries as we grow older is a decline in brain function. Resveratrol may be an effective tool in helping preserve memory and brain health.
Lenze EJ et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for older adults with worry symptoms and co-occurring cognitive dysfunction. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2014 Feb 18
Witte AV et al. Effects of resveratrol on memory performance, hippocampal functional connectivity, and glucose metabolism in healthy older adults. Neuroscience 2014 Jun 4; 34(23): 7862-70