Thursday, August 5, 2010

Study Reveals Promise in Connection Between Resveratrol and Brain Health

One of the biggest obstacles in holistic medicine is cultivating the science behind the way that herbs and nutrients work in the body. Some categories have been researched more than others, such as herbs like Echinacea and nutrients such as selenium, and we have a fairly good understanding of how they function in human physiology.

But for many nutrients and herbs, we are less certain about their mechanism of action, despite the clinical evidence of their benefits. The gaps in our scientific understanding are obstacles when mainstream medicine challenges our profession and asks for “proof ” that a supplement works. So it is always interesting when research provides us with a glimpse of the inner mechanisms of dietary supplements.

This recent study on trans-resveratrol, by researchers from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, gives us one of those glimpses to help answer the question of “How does it work?” Resveratrol is a chemical found in red wine, which may be responsible for the heart-healthy reputation of this delicious beverage. It is a potent antioxidant with a reputation for protecting blood vessels, reducing “bad” cholesterol, and benefiting our health in several ways. This study investigated how trans-resveratrol affects blood flow and cognitive function. Twenty-two volunteers took placebo and two single doses of resveratrol (250 mg and 500 mg), each on separate days. With each of the three doses, researchers measured cognitive function by testing the volunteers with particular tasks. They also measured blood flow to the brain by testing for blood oxygen levels after the doses.

The researchers found that the larger the dose of resveratrol, the better the blood flow. Increasing oxygen delivery to the brain is a key component for cognitive function. This test did not reflect an improvement in cognitive function with just a single dose, but its promising results regarding the blood flow suggests that later research may find that long-term supplementation of resveratrol could have a positive effect on the brain.

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