Wine and chocolate may not only be treats for Valentine's Day — they may also help keep your mind healthy year-round.
A new study from Georgetown University found that resveratrol — a natural compound found in red wine, dark chocolate, red grapes, raspberries and peanuts — may halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD) by preventing decreases of a peptide in the brain. The peptide (called Abeta40) is a known marker of AD.
"The study is encouraging enough that we should certainly go ahead and do a [larger] clinical trial because we showed that it is safe and does have significant effects on Alzheimer's biomarkers," said lead study author R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center, in an interview with CNN.
Dementia is a general term for cognitive decline severe enough to interfere with daily life. AD is the most common form of dementia.
AD is a progressive disease that can cause memory loss, cognitive difficulties and behavioral changes. There is currently no cure.
For this study, Dr. Turner and a team of doctors from 21 medical centers across the US gave concentrated doses of resveratrol to 64 patients with mild to moderate AD. Another 55 patients with AD were given a placebo.
The patients were given 500 milligrams of resveratrol daily at first, with the dose increasing every 13 weeks until it reached two daily 1 gram doses — an amount equal to the resveratrol found in 1,000 bottles of wine.
These patients were followed for one year.
Levels of Abeta40 continued to decrease in the brains of the placebo patients, while they stabilized in the resveratrol patients.
The resveratrol patients also showed improvements with completion of simple daily tasks, such as brushing teeth.
Despite these findings, Dr. Turner and team warned against being too optimistic.
"To really get a better feel of how effective this could be you really need to do larger studies for longer periods of time (such as several years)," said James A. Hendrix, director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association, per CNN News.
This study was published Sept. 11 in the journal Neurology.
The National Institutes of Health funded this research.
Several study authors disclosed ties to pharmaceutical companies that make drugs used in the treatment of AD.