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Compound found in foods such as red grapes and peanuts may help prevent decline
Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015 5:30 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

A compound found in common foods such as red grapes and peanuts may help prevent age-related decline in memory, according to new research published by a faculty member in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of Neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has been studying the potential benefit of resveratrol, an antioxidant that is found in the skin of red grapes, as well as in red wine, peanuts and some berries.

Resveratrol has been widely touted for its potential to prevent heart disease, but Shetty and a team that includes other researchers from the health science center believe it also has positive effects on the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is critical to functions such as memory, learning and mood.

Because both humans and animals show a decline in cognitive capacity after middle age, the findings may have implications for treating memory loss in the elderly. Resveratrol may even be able to help people afflicted with severe neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

In a study published online Jan. 28 in Scientific Reports, Shetty and his research team members reported that treatment with resveratrol had apparent benefits in terms of learning, memory and mood function in aged rats.

"The results of the study were striking," Shetty said. "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."

Shetty said neurogenesis (the growth and development of neurons) approximately doubled in the rats given resveratrol compared to the control rats. The resveratrol-treated rats also had significantly improved microvasculature, indicating improved blood flow, and 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 said.

This study was funded primarily by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. Shetty's lab is now examining the molecular mechanisms that underlie the improved cognitive function following resveratrol treatment. He also plans to conduct studies to see whether lower doses of resveratrol in the diet for prolonged periods would offer similar benefits to the aged brain.

1. Maheedhar Kodali, Vipan K. Parihar, Bharathi Hattiangady, Vikas Mishra, Bing Shuai, Ashok K. Shetty. Resveratrol Prevents Age-Related Memory and Mood Dysfunction with Increased Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Microvasculature, and Reduced Glial Activation. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 8075 DOI: 10.1038/srep08075

Lane Simonian
Posted: Saturday, February 7, 2015 10:36 AM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 4986

Polyphenols are the compounds found in red grapes and peanuts that help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and slow its progression. Polyphenols are also found in almost every nutritional "solution" to the disease including but not limited pomegranates, grapefruit, cocoa, green tea, various spices, various essential oils via aromatherapy, medicinal marijuana, coconut oil, hops, and a Mediterranean diet.

Polyphenols are antioxidants and more specifically peroxynitrite scavengers. Alzheimer's disease is driven by oxidants and most especially by peroxynitrites. The reason why some of these compounds work in mice but not as well in human beings has to do with absorption and metabolism. Using a combination of different polyphenols (and especially methoxyphenols such as curcumin, eugenol in various essential oils, vanillin, ferulic acid and syringic acid--in panax ginseng for example) and/or inhaling polyphenols into the brain would not only likely slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease (which a Mediterranean diet does), but also partially reverse it.

Posted: Sunday, February 8, 2015 11:15 AM
Joined: 9/13/2013
Posts: 112

Thank you Lane for explaining the common thread among the foods that are found to be good for Alzheimer's - that the polyphenol, is the compound that is the key to the foods here.

Latest researches are showing that Alz Disease (AD) is caused by oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. These destructive forces contribute to the formation and proliferation of plaques and tangles that are the hallmark of the disease.

Foods that have anti-oxidant
(e.g. polyphenols like resveratrol in red grapes) and anti-inflammatory (e.g. curcumin in turmeric) properties therefore can help control the ravaging of the brain's hippocampus in this disease.

Lane Simonian
Posted: Sunday, February 8, 2015 11:43 AM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 4986

Exactly! Oxidation is likely the primary driving force behind Alzheimer's disease and oxidation can cause inflammation. Polyphenols are both anti-oxidants and reduce inflammation. The following is quite lengthy and complicated, but provides a very thorough review of essential oils as anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. (whole article in pdf)

And a couple for spices:

Lane Simonian
Posted: Sunday, February 8, 2015 4:16 PM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 4986

This is a nice recent study on the use of polyphenols in the prevention (and likely treatment) of cognitive disorders:

Date: 14 Nov 2014

Antioxidant Plant Polyphenols and Cognitive Disorders


Cognitive impairment and dementia observed in increased frequency in older individuals are related to neurodegenerative processes accumulating in the brain with age. Oxidative stress as the primary or secondary cause plays an important role in the initiation and acceleration of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease) and brain aging. Due to low activity of antioxidant enzymes, high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and high oxygen consumption per g of tissue, the brain is more vulnerable to oxidative stress than other organs. Therefore antioxidants are supposed to decrease the risk of dementia.

Plant polyphenols especially those present in grapes, green tea, red wine, blueberry juice, and pomegranate juice which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are possible candidates for prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. This was proven in several experiments with transgenic mice bearing mutations causing Alzheimer’s disease like pathology. Addition of red wine, pomegranate juice, grape seed, or green tea polyphenolic extract to drinking water inhibited formation of amyloid deposits in the brain and improved learning and memory in these animals. Dietary supplementation with wild blueberry juice or concord grape juice resulted in improvement of cognitive performance in older subjects in comparison to those receiving placebo. Moreover, several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies revealed significance of dietary intake of plant polyphenols on cognitive function in older individuals. These suggest the preventive and therapeutic potential for neurodegenerative diseases of natural plant polyphenols with antioxidant activity.

The last critical step once again is to get the most effective polyphenol anti-oxidants into the brain in large enough concentrations to make a substantial difference.