Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative condition affecting the cortex and hippocampus. It is the most common form of dementia affecting 496,000 people in the UK (Judd, n.d.). With an ageing population healthy lifestyle changes could help alleviate the economic strain of this pandemic. The Mediterranean lifestyle is widely considered healthy, but could the answer to AD lie in sunflower seeds and wine.
Wine & Resveratrol
Epidemiological studies have correlated moderate wine consumption with a decreased incidence of cardiovascular pathology, an effect known as the ‘French Paradox’ (Anekonda, 2006; Villaflores et al., 2012). Further research expanded this effect to AD and various other conditions, with three to four glasses of wine daily attributed with an 80% decrease in the incidence of dementia and AD in patients over three years (Ramassamy, 2006). The numerous polyphenols contained within the skin and seeds of the common grape Vitis vinifera, are thought to be the cause (Langcake and Pryce, 1976).
Resveratrol (trans-3,4’,5-trihydroxystilbene) is the principal non-flavonoid polyphenol found in red wine (Ramassamy, 2006). As a phytoalexin, it is produced by plants in response to bacterial and fungal attack (Alarcón de la Lastra and Villegas, 2005; Pervaiz, 2003). It has shown anti-aging properties in species of yeast, fruit fly, worms, fish and mice (Barger et al., 2008; Howitz et al., 2003; Kang et al., 2002; Valenzano et al., 2006; Wood et al., 2004). Furthermore, studies have shown it protective against various cancers, inflammatory conditions, stroke and cardiovascular diseases in rodents (Baur and Sinclair, 2006; Jang et al., 1997; Martín et al., 2004; Sinha et al., 2002; Wang et al., 2002). The antioxidant effects of resveratrol [0-40µM] are greater than quercetin and catechin (flavonoids), the two other powerful antioxidants found in wine (Anekonda, 2006), but I shall be focusing on its additional molecular targets.
It is argued that mechanisms of AD and ageing are intrinsically linked (Landfield et al., 1992). Calorie restriction (CR) is correlated with protection against AD, thought to act through the regulation of multiple genes, including the activation of SIRT1 (Barger et al., 2003; Qin et al., 2006; Sinclair, 2005; Srivastava and Haigis, 2011; Wood et al., 2004). Sirtuin-1 is a conserved NAD+-dependant histone deacetylase protein, coded by SIRT1. Its homologue in yeast, SIR2, is a silent mating type information regulator. SIRT1 enzymatically deacetylates cellular-stress proteins involved in various degenerative disorders(Guo et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2002). Copies of sirtuin genes are associated with extended lifespan in various organisms and congruently low SIRT1 expression correlates with neurodegeneration and loss of neurons in mice (Baur and Sinclair, 2006; Kim et al., 2007). Importantly high protein aggregation in deceased AD patient brains was identified to correlate with a reduction of cortical SIRT1 expression,...