A balancing act for Alzheimer’s: Researchers explore resveratrol’s antioxidant effects and the risks of alcohol consumption

People battling with Alzheimer’s disease may have heard of resveratrol, a natural compound found in grapes.

Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that can be harmful when there are too much of them in the body. They are linked to a host of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Studies have looked into how resveratrol can help treat and lower the risk of these diseases. One area of research, in particular, explores its protective effect against Alzheimer’s. For one, research suggests that drinking red wine may be good for the brain as it contains resveratrol and flushes out toxins that may lead to dementia.

Be that as it may, researchers caution that red wine is an alcoholic drink; drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver and gastrointestinal tract and contribute to poor cognition, among other adverse effects.

In the sections below, experts looked into resveratrol’s antioxidant effects and the risks of alcohol consumption.

Resveratrol helps protect from Alzheimer’s

Clinical studies have shown promising results for the use of resveratrol to help treat Alzheimer’s and lower disease risk.

A study published in the journal Neurology found that high-dosage resveratrol can impact a biomarker of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from Georgetown University enrolled 119 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s to a one-year supplementation of either a synthetic resveratrol supplement or a placebo. Dosage was gradually increased from 500 mg to 2,000 mg over the course of the experiment period.


After a year, the resveratrol group exhibited little to no change in levels of amyloid-beta40 in the blood and cerebrospinal fluids. Meanwhile, the placebo group had lower levels of amyloid-beta40 compared to their baseline levels.

“A decrease in [amyloid-beta40] is seen as dementia worsens and Alzheimer’s disease progresses,” explained lead researcher R. Scott Turner.

The researchers also found that the brain volume of the resveratrol group decreased, a finding for which they have no adequate explanation yet, admitted Turner. One hypothesis suggests that resveratrol may have reduced brain swelling caused by Alzheimer’s-related inflammation.

Other studies looked into the health benefits of grapes and moderate alcohol consumption.

One study published in the journal Experimental Gerontology administered either a freeze-dried grape powder or a placebo powder to participants with mild cognitive decline. Those who received the grape powder had higher metabolic activity in certain areas of the brain, preserving healthy brain activity. The study, commissioned by the California Table Grape Commission, did not specify what grapes were used for the grape powder.

Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Nature looked at the effects of different doses of alcohol on mice. Those who were administered with low doses of pure alcohol displayed an increased fluid flow through their brains. In turn, this can clear toxins from the brain that may accumulate among people with dementia. (Related: Resveratrol in grapes and wine protects from deafness and Alzheimer’s.)

Moderation is key

While the findings above are promising, they come with an important caveat: Consuming resveratrol through red wine should be done in moderation.

Drinking too much alcohol can leave a devastating impact. It predisposes individuals to depression, liver disease, premature death, alcohol dependence and weight gain. Red wine, in particular, has twice the amount of calories as beer and sugary soft drinks.

To avoid these unwanted effects, you can refer to the following recommended amounts for daily red wine consumption:

  • one to one-and-a-half glasses a day for women
  • one to two glasses a day for men

These recommendations refer to total alcohol intake. Drinking this amount of red wine in addition to other alcoholic beverages can put you in the range of excessive alcohol consumption.

If you have a history of substance and alcohol abuse, you can opt taking resveratrol supplements instead of red wine.

Alzheimers.news has more on resveratrol’s protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.

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