Cheers to Your Health…Literally.

Posted on December 19, 2012

As the holiday season gets into full swing, family and friends may not realize that toasting to each other’s good health may be good for them—literally.

Dr. Jane Cavanaugh

A recent study conducted by Dr. Jane Cavanaugh, assistant pharmacology professor, and pharmacy graduate student Erika Allen of the Mylan School of Pharmacy suggests that resveratrol—a chemical compound found in red wine—may help improve mobility and prevent falls among the elderly population.

“Resveratrol is a natural antioxidant, a protectant in plants,” explained Allen, whose dissertation work focuses on the study. “It does a lot of really cool things, but nobody has really ever looked at it much with motor coordination.”

In their study, Cavanaugh and Allen’s research team worked with groups of young, middle-aged and older mice, which were fed a diet of resveratrol in various forms. They tested the ability of the mice to maneuver a steel-mesh balance beam and found that the older mice, which at first had the most difficulty keeping their balance, showed marked improvement after four weeks on the resveratrol-enhanced diet.

“Our study suggests that resveratrol, as part of a daily diet, could possibly decrease some of the motor deficiencies seen in our aging population,” said Cavanaugh.

The team’s research—which was presented at this year’s American Chemical Society conference—may lead to novel therapies for age-related motor deficits utilizing natural compounds.

“The next step would be to study different doses and different time points with the resveratrol, and to work more with the chemical modifications of resveratrol in the diet to see if there’s something even better,” said Cavanaugh.

Resveratrol, which is available in supplement form, is found naturally in the skin of grapes, blueberries, raspberries, peanuts and walnuts. It has also been touted to help with cancer prevention, reduce the risk of heart disease and feature anti-diabetic effects.

“What is very exciting about this research is that we are looking at isolated brain cell models of certain kinds of brain cells known as dopamine cells,” added Cavanaugh. “Dopamine cells in the brain are very important for controlling movement, but they are also the ones that are very badly damaged with Parkinson’s disease. Erika has shown in this model that resveratrol can actually protect from a certain kind of toxic stress to which a person with Parkinson’s might have been exposed.”

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