Friday, 2 June 2017

Could Resveratrol Help Treat Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias are perhaps the worst kind of age-related disease there is. They affect everything about a person, not just the physical body, so anything that may help to slow or reverse these problems is definitely worth consideration. One of these interventions could be resveratrol, a much-studied natural substance with many potential antiaging effects.

For this study, 119 patients with mild-moderate Alzheimer's Disease were analysed. Of these, 19 took 1 gram of resveratrol twice daily, and 19 took a placebo, both for 52 weeks (one year). Resveratrol's antiaging effects are largely due to its ability to activate the SIRT1 gene. After 52 weeks, the treatment group showed signs that their levels of neuro-inflammation had fallen, and their immune systems were working more effectively. Resveratrol also slowed the decline in mini-mental status exam (MMSE) scores, as well as activities of daily living (ADL) scores. The decline in MMSE scores was not seen as statistically significant, meaning that it may not have truly deteriorated. The decline in ADL scores was half that of the placebo group. Additionally, the "normal" progression of Alzheimer's involves dysfunction and senescence of immune cells in the central nervous system. This impairs their ability to take out the cellular and interstitial "garbage", which has serious implications for neurological health.

Red grapes are the top food source of resveratrol,
though therapeutic doses call for supplementation.
Resveratrol is known as a pharmacological mimic of calorie restriction, which is the act of consuming two-thirds of the normal energy requirements. Research has shown that this can prevent or postpone many of the complications of aging, which is why many people have found health benefits from various fasting techniques, e.g. the 5:2 diet or confining food intake to 8-12 hours each day. On the other hand, diabetes and obesity increase the risk of problems such as Alzheimer's Disease. Activation of sirtuin genes, especially SIRT1, appears to be one mechanism behind the benefits of calorie restriction.

Actually, calorie restriction itself has been found to impact neurodegenerative diseases and other health problems. This is partly because many of these involve chronic inflammation, and research has shown that alternate-day fasting can reduce levels of inflammatory markers. This has been linked with reductions in the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and even improved functional outcomes in a mouse model of stroke. Fasting may even have beneficial effects on genetic disorders. An animal study on mice with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Type 1A found that intermittent fasting could also improve motor performance and reduce the demyelination that is responsible for functional decline. Without myelin, our nerve cells cannot transmit signals as effectively. The mechanism behind this was improved autophagy, which clears out garbage in the cells, and in this case it included inappropriate aggregates of myelin protein. Both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases also involve inappropriate protein aggregation, in PD alpha-synuclein is involved, and in AD we see amyloid-beta and tau proteins causing trouble. The only problem with these fasting techniques is that, although they are not constant, we have been raised to think that non-pregnant adults must be constantly eating throughout the day, and that any food restriction is a "punishment". But with all of the research on intermittent fasting techniques, which would you prefer (as long as you are medically able to fast, and need to), a relatively small amount of pleasure and poor health, or some discipline in exchange for a great life?

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