Prevent Alzheimers by drinking red wine could this really be true?

The Good Life Letter

28th November 2010

  • Is red wine really part of a 'miracle' cure for preventing Alzheimers?
  • How could a cycle ride lead to medical discovery?
  • Dad's Sunday tipple is now even better for him

Mention Alzheimer's in an article and I'm all over it.

Since my Dad was diagnosed with this horrendous condition I've made it my priority to search out every little bit of information I can and obviously I'm on a one-man hunt to find anything that can prevent Alzheimers.

Imagine how I felt when I saw this headline in the Daily Mail last Tuesday:

"A cheap diabetes drug taken with a red wine 'miracle pill' could prevent millions from suffering the agony of Alzheimer's."

Red wine? It did say red wine, didn't it?  For those of us of a certain age the concept of red wine being good for us is like the Holy Grail.

But there was a worrying use of the word 'miracle' right next to it.

I'm a sceptic whenever I see anything claiming to be a miracle, so I read on with caution.

I discovered that the science from Scotland is genuine, and really interesting.

Let me explain.

Alzheimers is the most common cause of dementia in the UK, which affects about a half a million people directly and many, many families and carers.

The health chiefs have said that they expect the number of cases to double in the next generation - and they are committing to using more of their depleted resources to try to stop it.

For the sufferer the impact is devastating. As the disease progresses it slowly robs them of their life, their identity and ultimately their personality.

Currently management of the condition involves a heady cocktail of drugs that become progressively stronger and increasingly expensive.

Early phase treatments are based around cholinesterase inhibitors, which work to protect some of the important chemicals in the brain that help with memory and recall functions. In the later stages NDMA inhibitors act to control brain cell death - these are much more powerful and often have strong side effects.

As is often the case there may be a simpler solution, which is what the Dundee University study found.

The research team looked at the effects on the brain of a drug commonly used in controlling diabetes called Metformin, and an extract of red wine, resveratrol.

It is this substance which has previously been identified as the reason why small amounts of red wine are beneficial and although some of the claims are a little far fetched, there is evidence that cardiac, bowel and liver function can be improved by moderate consumption.

Get on YOUR bike and discover a new treatment

In interviews the head researcher of the trial, Professor Susann Schweiger described how she came to start her research.

"I was cycling to work one day and it occurred to me that if Metformin can work in type2 diabetes and given its mode of function, then it should also have beneficial effects in Alzheimer's disease."

Her team are hopeful that full medical trials could commence very quickly.

"The implications of this research are that, because Metformin is already often used in clinical practice, it could go into a clinical trial with Alzheimer's patients soon." She said, and her team were equally enthusiastic about the use of resveratrol.

Wow, that was some bike ride to work, Prof!

Maybe I should break my old penny farthing out of the shed and head out in search of scientific discovery...

Dad has earned his Sunday tipple, and it might do him more good that we thought.

This weekend I was over at Mum and Dad's helping them to shift their furniture around and paint their rooms - I won't lie, it's been hard work.

However, there is something special about working alongside the old man; enjoying his banter and gentle cajoling. I even managed not to get too cross at being told how to mix paint in a kettle and prime a door frame, even though I'm well into my forties!

Mum's Sunday lunch is eagerly anticipated, and along with it I might even manage to prise a bottle of Chez Collins' finest Beaujolais out of the rack to accompany it. After all, the benefits may now be more than just a way of relaxing aching muscles... it might be a way of looking after Dad's little grey cells for longer.

I know the full effect has been reported in conjunction with metformin, but that just isn't as much fun to write about -  or drink -  on a fine Sunday!

It's not my intention to belittle the science, but sometimes being close to someone whose health is under threat means that you need to lighten the mood occasionally.

I'll leave the last word to Prof. Schweiger, who offers hope to all of us when she says:

"We would envisage this treatment being used after an early-stage diagnosis of Alzheimer's. We are not expecting to revive cells that are already dead, but to protect those not yet damaged by the progression of Alzheimer's."

Hopefully this will all come to pass soon, because we need that hope.

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