Red wine may help combat Alzheimer's by targeting key mechanisms in the brain that lead to the memory-stealing condition, new research shows.
In a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers with the Buck Institute found resveratrol — a beneficial compound found in red wine and many foods — boosts the action of a key linked to the incurable, brain-wasting disease.
Medical experts have long known that Alzheimer's results from the buildup of cholesterol-carrying proteins in the brain — known as ApoE4 plaques — that cause memory loss and other debilitating conditions. But the new study is the first to identify a link between ApoE4 and SirT1 — an "anti-aging protein" — and determine that resveratrol can counter the negative interaction between the two.
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By examining brain cells from Alzheimer's patients, the Buck researchers found that ApoE4 causes a dramatic reduction in SirT1. But they also demonstrated that increasing SirT1 can prevent the abnormalities caused by ApoE4, and that reservatrol appears to have that beneficial effect on the anti-aging protein.
"The biochemical mechanisms that link ApoE4 to Alzheimer's disease have been something of a black box," said lead researchers Rammohan Rao and Dale Bredesen, M.D. "However, recent work from a number of labs, including our own, has begun to open the box."
The Buck group also found that the abnormalities associated with ApoE4 and AD, such as the creation of phospho-tau and amyloid-beta, could be prevented by increasing SirT1. They have identified drug candidates that have the same effect.
Alzheimer's strikes more than 5 million Americans. There are no treatments that are known to cure, or halt the progression of symptoms.
Rao noted about 2.5 percent of the population carry two genes for ApoE4, putting them at a 10-fold higher risk of developing AD.
The new research could help identify a simple, safe treatment for ApoE4 carriers to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease, he said.
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