A naturally occurring compound found in dark chocolate and red wine might be able to slow or stop the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
A compound in red wine, resveratrol, that appears to have anti-aging effects could become a new way to treat Alzheimer's disease, early research suggests.
- In a nationwide clinical trial for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease a biomarker that declines when the disease progresses was stabilized in people who took the purified form of resveratrol.
The resveratrol clinical trial was a randomized, phase II, placebo-controlled, double blind study in patients with mild to moderate dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. An "investigational new drug" application was required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to test the pure synthetic (pharmaceutical-grade) resveratrol in the study. It is not available commercially in this form.
The study enrolled 119 participants. The highest dose of resveratrol tested was one gram by mouth twice daily -- equivalent to the amount found in about 1,000 bottles of red wine.
John Bozza, 80, participated in the study. Five years ago, his wife, Diana, began noticing "something wasn't quite right." He was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, but only a year later, his condition progressed to mild Alzheimer's.
Diana, whose twin sister died from the same disease, says there are multiple reasons she and John decided to participate in the resveratrol study, and they now know he was assigned to take the active drug.
"I definitely want the medical community to find a cure," she says. "And of course I thought there's always a chance that John could have been helped, and who knows, maybe he was."
"I'm not recommending that people go out and buy resveratrol and start taking it," said study researcher Dr. R. Scott Turner, director of the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "We need further studies to see if it really does have a benefit," Turner said.Still, Turner said the new findings suggest that resveratrol may act through a brain pathway different from the one typical Alzheimer's drugs do. Instead of targeting amyloid proteins directly, as many Alzheimer's treatments do, resveratrol targets them indirectly, Turner said.
"It's showing us a new mechanism, or a new pathway, towards Alzheimer's treatments," Turner said. "This is targeting amyloid in an indirect way," he said. Researchers think that resveratrol activates proteins called sirtuins, which are also activated by calorie restriction, and may have anti-aging effects.
The results were published in Neurology.
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The researchers studied resveratrol because it activates proteins called sirtuins, the same proteins activated by caloric restriction. The biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's is aging, and studies with animals found that most age-related diseases--including Alzheimer's--can be prevented or delayed by long-term caloric restriction (consuming two-thirds the normal caloric intake).
The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and conducted with the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, began in 2012 and ended in 2014. GUMC was one of 21 participating medical centers across the U.S.
"Given safety and positive trends toward effectiveness in this phase 2 study, a larger phase 3 study is warranted to test whether resveratrol is effective for individuals with Alzheimer's -- or at risk for Alzheimer's," Turner says.Resveratrol and similar compounds are being tested in many age-related disorders including cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. The study Turner led, however, is the largest, longest and highest dose trial of resveratrol in humans to date.
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