Eventually, these menopausal symptoms will disappear or lessen in intensity post-menopausally but there is nothing to celebrate. This is because women will no longer have the heart protective benefits of estrogen (a hormone that regulates menstruation). Reduced production of estrogen increases a woman’s risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and dementia. These disease conditions are closely related to poor blood circulation; estrogen targets the blood vessels to promote blood flow to tissues and organs like our heart, lungs and brain. Our brains require the effects of estrogen to increase blood flow to specific regions responsible for memory and learning. When circulating estrogen levels fluctuate they alter blood flow to the brain, triggering mood swings, irritability and poor mental performance (brain fog). It is believed that a persistent decrease in blood flow to the brain marks the start of brain degeneration.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or estrogen therapy, is effective in reducing menopausal symptoms; some post-menopausal women continue HRT indefinitely. Estrogen can positively affect mental abilities such as concentration, memory, reasoning and reaction time. However, a women’s health study reported negative effects of HRT which saw a decline in its use in recent years. Some women turn to natural therapy such as phytoestrogens to help alleviate menopausal symptoms; however, there is little support/strategy to counteract the loss of estrogen effects on blood vessel health.
Resveratrol is an ingredient found in grapes and berries that has multiple benefits for heart health. It can work through multiple mechanisms including mimicking the action of estrogen on blood vessels to improve circulatory function, thereby having the potential to increase blood flow in the brain and enhance mental abilities and mood.
We aim to determine if resveratrol supplementation can enhance blood flow response to cognitive demands in specific regions of the brain and thereby improve mood and mental abilities such as short-term, mental flexibility, reasoning and ability to maintain attention and concentration of postmenopausal women (at least 6 months after ceasing menstruation). Volunteers who are not on HRT will be asked to consume the resveratrol or placebo supplement daily for 3 months. Blood flow to the brain will be measured non-invasively with ultrasound. We will also use surveys to monitor their mood, sleep, quality of life (including chronic pain) and menopausal symptoms during the study. If successful, we will investigate if this non-hormonal dietary supplement can also benefit women at menopause.