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Are These the Two Best Nutrients For Brain Health?


iStock_000009201552XSmall A recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry just may quiet some of the anxiety we all face about growing older. According to the researchers, taking a supplement combination of resveratrol, a naturally occurring antioxidant compound found in red wine, and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid prominent throughout the brain, may reduce the hippocampal inflammation associated with neurodegenerative conditions such as age-associated memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

How the hippocampus could play a role in Alzheimers and Dementia

The hippocampus is the segment of the brain that is primarily involved in memory function.  In fact, one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s Disease is altered hippocampal function, resulting in the reduced ability to form new memories.

Previous studies have linked this type of memory impairment to inflammation, which can cause degradation of the neurons in this particular region of the brain. And it’s no wonder that the hippocampus is susceptible to inflammation. Studies have shown that the hippocampus is extraordinarily sensitive to external stresses, due to its high number of glucocorticoid receptors — glucocorticoids being the hormones secreted upon experiencing some form of stress. Chronic sleep disruption, physical and emotional stress, and depression can all impair the hippocampus and cause the inflammation associated with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Could anti-inflammatory brain nutrients like resveratrol and DHA help?

Given its sensitivity to stressors, researchers at the University of New Castle sought ways in which one might be able to reduce hippocampal inflammation using easy-to-obtain nutrients.

In their animal-based trial, subjects were supplemented with 50mg/kg/day of either resveratrol, DHA, both, or neither (control).  Resveratrol and DHA were chosen because these particular nutrients were shown to be neuroprotective by other research studies.

A beneficial synergistic effect occurred in the group receiving both resveratrol and DHA supplementation, which researchers suggested may help maintain or achieve a healthier hippocampus.  Researchers observed this synergistic effect in mechanisms that activate specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant genes that affect the hippocampus.  They also found a reduced expression of the apolipoprotein, ApoE in the group that received both resveratrol and DHA supplementation.  This finding was significant because ApoE facilitates the amyloid plaque formation associated with Alzheimer’s disease.   Therefore, reducing its expression may result in less plaque formation.

What does all this mean for those of you worried about your brain health? 

The results of this study suggest that combined supplementation of both resveratrol and DHA may reduce plaque formation and hippocampal inflammation by preventing the genes that initiate these mechanisms from being turned on.  Previous research studies support these results, finding that resveratrol may reduce the impact of amyloid plaques in the brain and reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s disease,  and that DHA may be neuroprotective and reduce inflammation in the brain. Therefore, following a supplement regimen that includes both a resveratrol and DHA supplement daily may help you maintain or improve your overall metal wellbeing.


CB Head Shot (2) Carolyn has a Master’s of Science degree in Dietetics from D’Youville College and is truly passionate about the science of nutrition. She currently works as a Dietitian in the integrative health industry is an advocate for natural wellness, nutrition education, and food policy change. She also has advanced expertise in the nutritional care of gastrointestinal disorders and is an expert on the gluten free diet. In her spare time, Carolyn enjoys shopping at her local farmer’s market, traveling with her husband, reading nutrition research, walking her dog, and working on her blog, DC Wellness Scout.

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