Scientists from the Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences also report that supplements of the polyphenol were associated with increased functional connectivity of the hippocampus.
“This study provides initial evidence that supplementary resveratrol improves memory performance in association with improved glucose metabolism and increased hippocampal functional connectivity in older adults,” they wrote in the Journal of Neuroscience. “Our findings offer the basis for novel strategies to maintain brain health during aging.”
Resveratrol, a powerful polyphenol and anti-fungal chemical, is often touted as the bioactive compound in grapes and red wine, and has particularly been associated with the so-called 'French Paradox'.
While many research dollars have been spent exploring the potential cardiovascular benefits of the polyphenol, some evidence supports a potential role for the ingredient in brain health.
A 2010 paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28641) from UK-based scientists reported that a single dose of 250 or 500 milligrams of resveratrol may boost blood flow in the brain but did not affect cognitive performance.
“The results of the current study provide the first indication in humans that resveratrol may be able to modulate cerebral blood flow variables,” wrote the researchers, led by David Kennedy from the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University.
“Thus, it seems reasonable to suggest that the potential effects of this molecule on brain function deserve a great deal more research attention with a clear focus on both healthy humans and pathologic groups,” they added.
The new study, led by Veronica Witte included 46 men and women aged between 50 and 75. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either 200 mg per day of resveratrol or a placebo for 26 weeks.
Data from memory tests and neuroimaging performed before and after the 26 week study period indicated that the resveratrol supplements were associated with significant improvements in the retention of words over 30 minutes compared with placebo.
Resveratrol supplementation was also associated with decreased levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), which is a marker of long-term presence of excess glucose in the blood, compared with placebo. Neuroimaging data also showed that, “resveratrol led to significant increases in hippocampal functional connectivity”, wrote Witte and her co-authors.
“Increases in functional connectivity between the left posterior hippocampus and the medial prefrontal cortex correlated with increases in retention scores and with decreases in HbA1c,” they added.
Source: Journal of Neuroscience
2014, Volume 34, Number 23, Pages 7862-7870, doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0385-14.2014
“Effects of resveratrol on memory performance, hippocampal functional connectivity, and glucose metabolism in healthy older adults”
Authors: A.V. Witte, L. Kerti, D.S. Margulies, A. Flöel