Until a few years ago, research had pointed to resveratrol’s neuroprotective effects against Alzheimer’s, but not against other types of dementia. However, a human study just published in March 2020 has showed that “regular consumption of resveratrol can enhance cognitive and cerebrovascular functions in post-menopausal women, with the potential to slow cognitive decline due to ageing and menopause.”

Resveratrol is a natural phytoestrogen and antioxidant probably best known for its benefits in red wine and grapes, which may help protect your brain from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, while also minimising their damage.

In the featured studies, resveratrol improved learning and memory in rats and humans with vascular dementia by reducing oxidative stress in their brains. This form of dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s.

Vascular dementia is caused by conditions that block or reduce cerebral blood flow, resulting in your brain cells being chronically deprived of oxygen and vital nutrients. Inadequate blood flow can damage and eventually kill cells anywhere in your body, and your brain is particularly vulnerable as it has one of the richest blood supplies.

When the blood vessels in your brain become obstructed, you can experience repeated “mini-strokes,” which result in cumulative tissue damage. This leads to cognitive impairments that typically worsen over time.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “A growing number of experts prefer the term ‘vascular cognitive impairment’ (VCI) to ‘vascular dementia,’ because they feel it better expresses the concept that vascular thinking changes can range from mild to severe.”

Resveratrol: A Powerhouse of Health Benefits

Resveratrol does much more than just protect your brain — it offers benefits for practically every system in your body. It has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties that are well established by science.

The compound is produced by plants to increase their survival and resistance to disease during times of stress, such as excessive ultraviolet light, infections and climate changes. When you consume these plants, they pass on these protections to you. Resveratrol is present in a number of plant foods, including but not limited to the following: • Red grapes, especially Muscadine (concentrated in the skins and seeds) and red wine • Pomegranates • Berries such as black raspberries, mulberries, cranberries and blueberries • Peanuts • Cacao/cocoa and dark chocolate

As of March 25, 2020, the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed lists 621 articles showing the benefits of resveratrol.

In addition to being neuro-protective, resveratrol can reverse oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, normalise your lipids, protect your heart, stabilise your insulin, and fight several types of cancer – along with a host of other health benefits.

Resveratrol is also unique in that it can make some cancers more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Many tumours develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs, known as chemo-resistance. Researchers are always on the lookout for effective “chemo-sensitizers” that can help overcome such resistance, and resveratrol has been shown to have that capability with certain chemicals and radiotherapy.

Resveratrol Improves Blood Flow to Your Brain

One of the special properties of resveratrol is its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier, which allows it to moderate inflammation in your central nervous system.

This is significant because CNS inflammation plays an important role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

In a 2010 study, resveratrol was found to suppress inflammatory effects in certain brain cells (microglia and astrocytes) by inhibiting different pro-inflammatory cytokines and key signalling molecules. In a later study, scientists confirmed that the anti-inflammatory properties of resveratrol have neuro-protective effects.

There is also solid scientific data that resveratrol helps clear out the plaque in your brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found resveratrol to exert “potent anti-amyloidogenic activity.”

However, unlike Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia is not a product of plaque formation, but instead results from impaired blood flow. As it turns out, resveratrol has also been shown to improve cerebral blood flow. A study in 2010 found that even one single dose of resveratrol can improve blood flow to your brain, which has obvious implications for vascular dementia and stroke. In a 2017 study, scientists said:

” … resveratrol suppresses vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation, promotes autophagy, and has been investigated in the context of vascular senescence. Pre-clinical models unambiguously demonstrated numerous vasculo-protective effects of resveratrol. In clinical trials, resveratrol moderately diminished systolic blood pressure in hypertensive patients, as well as blood glucose in patients with diabetes mellitus.”

Its benefits may also be related to its ability to activate a particular gene, causing beneficial epigenetic effects.

Flipping Your Genetic Survival Switch

In 2013 researchers discovered that resveratrol may have anti-ageing benefits due to its ability to “mimic the beneficial effects of chronic and moderate calorie restriction.” A 2017 demonstrated that resveratrol alleviates cardiac dysfunction by flipping on a gene that stimulates production of a protein called SIRT1, preventing disease by recharging your mitochondria.

Interestingly, calorie restriction and resveratrol exert the same effect on the SIRT1 protein. People who intentionally keep themselves hungry by restricting their caloric intake or, preferably through fasting, seem to be flipping a “genetic survival switch.”

In fact, calorie-restricted mice live longer and are healthier than non-restricted mice, showing lower rates of age-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis and cognitive impairment.

A hungry life seems to lead to a longer life, for mice and for humans — at least that’s the direction science seems to be pointing. Moreover, new research is showing that a ketogenic diet also extends longevity and good health — which is good news if you practice KetoFasting, where you practice a cyclical ketogenic diet and partial fasting.

Could an Anti-Ageing ‘Wonder Drug’ Be Possible?

The potential to capitalise on an anti-ageing drug is incredibly seductive to Big Pharma. After all, a “wonder drug” promising to add additional healthy years to your life would be a big seller. Not surprisingly, SIRT1 genetic studies done at Harvard led to the formation of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, whose primary function was to turn resveratrol into a patentable drug. In 2008, Sirtris was purchased by drug behemoth GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million.

But, as Harvard Health reported a few years later, hopes for such a wonder drug longevity pill fell flat when patients in the clinical trial reported kidney damage. One problem was that the bioavailability of it in humans isn’t all that great — “Most of it exits via your bladder,” The New Republic explained.

On top of that, even though several clinical trials were ongoing during that time, they were dropped one by one as “unexpected side effects” popped up. In late 2019, one of those Harvard researchers, David Sinclair, reported that he’s still searching for a resveratrol-based wonder drug. But buyers beware: Whenever you give your body a synthetic version of a natural agent, or an isolated agent, you rarely get good results, and you should expect the unexpected in terms of detrimental effects.

It’s always better to consume food the way nature prepared it, with its full complement of naturally occurring, synergistic phytonutrients.

Boosting your resveratrol intake would be better accomplished by consuming whole foods rich in that compound, such as grapes, berries and minimally processed raw cacao. If you choose to take a supplement, make sure it contains the whole food form.

And, Sinclair himself admits that, for now, that’s the way he lives. He exercises, practices calorie restriction, avoids carbs and sugar and indulges in sauna bathing, he told Boston Wellness. He also takes vitamin D and vitamin K2 regularly.

So, remember, there is no “magic bullet” for living longer and more healthily — it requires a multi-pronged approach. Wise lifestyle choices can’t be replaced by a pill, although the drug industry never tires of making that promise.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Even overdoing natural supplements can backfire, such as taking excessive amounts of anti-oxidants. Your body needs some degree of oxidative stress for optimal function and adaptation. Vigorous exercise, for example, creates a high degree of oxidative stress, but without it, your body would not become stronger.

In other words, if the stress on your body were to be removed from exercise, so would the benefit. This is precisely what the University of Copenhagen discovered in a study involving older men taking resveratrol. According to Science Daily, researchers said:

“We found that exercise training was highly effective in improving cardiovascular health parameters, but resveratrol supplementation attenuated the positive effects of training on several parameters including blood pressure, plasma lipid concentrations and maximal oxygen uptake.”

This finding took researchers by surprise. They noted that the quantities of resveratrol given to the men in this study (250mg) were much higher than what they would have received from natural foods.

The take-away message is that anti-oxidants are not a fix for everything; it’s more about finding balance.

Focusing on a healthy diet that optimises your insulin levels and minimises inflammation will reduce your risk for all types of dementia, as well as heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic degenerative conditions, as they all share the same underlying causes.

The best approach to anti-oxidants is to consume a wide variety instead of large amounts of just one. These elements work together synergistically, all performing different roles in your body, similar to an orchestra performing a symphony: The music falls short if only one or two instruments are playing.

Tips for Protecting Your Brain

Resveratrol can be a powerful addition to your diet, but not without a solid nutritional foundation. The first step is making sure you’re covering the basics, sobe sure you specifically address the following:

Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurised dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter)

Increase consumption of healthy fats, such as organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called organic grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado

Keep your fasting insulin levels below 3. if your fasting insulin level is above 3, consider limiting or eliminating your intake of grains and sugars until you optimise your insulin level

Exercise regularly, including high-intensity interval training

Optimise your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure

Optimise your gut flora by regularly consuming fermented foods or taking a high quality probiotics supplement

Consume enough high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil

Try intermittent fasting

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