A team of researchers has found that resveratrol - a well-known compound found in the skin of red grapes and in red wine - could help prevent memory loss in old age.
An antioxidant also found in peanuts and some berries, resveratrol has made headlines for its potential to curb some effects of aging and prevent heart disease, yet the current study says it could be important for memory, learning and mood.
"The study provides novel evidence that resveratrol treatment in late middle age can help improve memory and mood function in old age," says Ashok K Shetty, PhD, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of Neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Texas A&M University in the US.
In the study, Shetty and his team worked with rats, spring boarding on the fact that both humans and animals undergo cognitive decline after middle age.
Rats treated with resveratrol exhibited improved spatial learning and memory in what Shetty calls a striking contrast with their counterparts in the control group, who did not receive resveratrol.
According to Shetty, the ability to create new spatial memories in the untreated rats plunged, to which he says decreasing neurogenesis is to blame.
By contrast, the growth and development of neurons had roughly doubled in the rats treated with resveratrol, says Shetty.
These rats also showed improved blood flow and lowered inflammation in the hippocampus -- a part of the brain that's key to learning, memory and mood.
Study authors acknowledge funds from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Future projects include trials to find out just how much resveratrol is needed to produce these positive effects in the brain.