Red wine and dark chocolate may benefit patients with Alzheimer’s, study suggests

Updated: September 12, 2015
Red wine and dark chocolate may benefit patients with Alzheimer's, study suggests

A new study has found tantalizing evidence that a highly concentrated form of a compound found in red wine and dark chocolate might be able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The discovery comes after the world’s largest human trials of resveratrol in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

In purified form, it appears to stabilise cognitive decline in sufferers.

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring compound found in the skin of red grapes, raspberries, peanuts, dark chocolate and wine.

Tests showed the drug is safe and treatment may reduce inflammation, or brain swelling, a hallmark of the condition.

Scientists last night hailed the findings.

Leading Alzheimer’s researcher Professor Christian Holscher, of Lancaster University, said: “This result is greatly encouraging as it shows the new drug to be safe and it can enter the brain.

“It also normalises a key biomarker for the disease, so this is great news. A drug treatment that halts the disease is desperately needed and we all hope that this may be one.”

Experts believe resveratrol could have a game-changing effect on the hippocampus, an area of the brain crucial to vital thought processes.

Humans show a decline in cognitive capacity after middle age, so the tests could be a watershed moment in treating memory loss.

The pure synthetic resveratrol was tested in 119 people in the US.

The highest dose was 1g by mouth twice daily, the equivalent to 1,000 bottles of red wine.

Tests showed patients treated with increasing doses of resveratrol over a year showed little or no change in levels of Abeta40, a protein that decreases as the disease takes hold.

In contrast, those taking a placebo saw a decrease.

Dr Scott Turner, director of Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, where the tests were carried out, said: “A decrease in Abeta40 is seen as dementia worsens and Alzheimer’s disease progresses. It does appear that resveratrol was able to penetrate the blood brain barrier, which is an important observation.”

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, whose calling card is memory loss, confused thinking, speech and difficulty in problem solving.

It is also worsens over time.

Disturbing figures show that by 2050 more than two million will be struck down with the illness in the UK.

Dr Emma O’Brien, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said that before any conclusions could be made “more studies involving larger numbers of people will be needed”.

The results are published in the journal Neurology.