(NaturalHealth365) Currently 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia. But, to make matters worse, this disease is projected to reach ‘epidemic’ proportions by 2050 – with a staggering (unsustainable) $2 trillion healthcare cost.
These alarming statistics have researchers scrambling for new methods of prevention and treatment. Now, evidence has emerged that ordinary grapes – one of the most loved (refreshing) snacks – can be a powerful ally against dementia. In a just-published study from UCLA, researchers found that grapes can have significant effects on preventing cognitive decline in older adults – and may even help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
How consuming grapes can lower your risk of dementia
In a placebo-controlled study published in January in Experimental Gerontology, men and women with mild cognitive decline were given either freeze-dried grape powder or a placebo daily for six months. PET scans were used to evaluate cognitive performance and changes in brain metabolism, both before and after treatment.
The results were remarkable – and encouraging.
Participants who received only the placebo had significant metabolic decline in certain parts of the brain, including the right posterior cingulate cortex and left superior posterolaterol temporal cortex. This is significant, because low metabolic activity in these brain areas is characteristic of early Alzheimer’s disease.
In the group receiving the grape powder – an amount roughly equivalent to 2 and ¼ cups of fresh grapes a day – the picture was very different. Not only was there no decline in key brain areas, but the participants also experienced an increase in metabolism in parts of the brain – such as the right superior parietal cortex and left inferior temporal cortex – that affect attention and working memory.
Lead researcher Daniel H. Silverman credited regular dietary intake of grapes with a beneficial role in supporting neurologic and cardiovascular health, and called for more study to further explore the therapeutic effects of grapes.
More research supports the idea that eating grapes is good for the brain
The UCLA research is the newest study to examine the beneficial effects of grapes on cognition, but it is by no means the first. A recent study from the University of Leeds also showed that drinking Concord grape juice could significantly boost cognition.
And, the effects are not confined to those with cognitive deficits – even people with no cognitive impairments can benefit.
In the University of Leeds study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the participants were healthy women between 40 and 50 years old who were juggling full-time jobs and motherhood. At the beginning of the study, the women were tested for cognition, verbal and spatial memory and mood – and even given driving tests conducted on computer simulators.
Some of the women were then treated with 12 ounces of Concord grape juice daily for twelve weeks, while others were given a placebo. At the six-week and twelve-week marks in the study, researchers found that the juice drinkers had significantly higher scores in spatial memory and driving performance than the placebo group.
In addition, a 2010 study published in Lancet demonstrated significant increases in verbal and spatial memory among adults with mild cognitive impairment who drank Concord grape juice for 12 weeks. Yet another study from the University of Cincinnati replicated these results.
Why are grapes so helpful for brain health?
Plants produce polyphenol flavonoids to defend themselves against harsh weather, ultraviolet light, and bacterial and fungal diseases – and humans can benefit from them as well. A 12-ounce glass of grape juice contains 777 mg of polyphenols, including resveratrol, quercetin, proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins.
These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds protect the brain by reducing oxidative stress, promoting healthy blood flow, reducing inflammation, and helping to maintain levels of brain chemicals that promote memory. If you want to avoid dementia – all of these benefits are important.
They also promote the bioavailability of nitric oxide, which dilates and relaxes blood vessels. And, animal studies have shown that grapes can prevent the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
As an added bonus: resveratrol has been shown to activate three different longevity genes – and can possibly play a role in prolonging the quality of our life.
Grapes are also associated with better blood sugar balance and insulin regulation. In addition to regulating blood pressure and reducing LDL cholesterol, they may even protect against cancer – particularly of the breast, colon and prostate.
Grapes are rich in minerals, vitamins and fiber
Despite their humble, everyday appearance, grapes are potent little globes of high-quality nutrition. A cup of fresh grapes provides 104 calories and contains 1.09 grams of cancer-fighting dietary fiber. Naturally low in fat and sodium, grapes are a good source of vitamin C – and an excellent source of vitamin B-2 and copper.
In addition, with 2.88 mg of potassium per one-cup serving, grapes support healthy blood pressure. They are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin – carotenoids that are important for maintaining healthy vision and avoiding age-related macular degeneration.
Although most studies have been conducted with juiced or powdered Concord grapes, red and green grapes provide benefits as well. Naturally, you should opt for certified organic grapes, as conventionally grown grapes have been found to have high levels of pesticide residue.
And, remember, polyphenol content is highest in the skins of grapes – so for maximum health benefits, eat them unpeeled.
So, there you have it: tasty, appealing, and convenient to eat – grapes make an excellent weapon against cognitive impairment and many forms of dementia.
Editor’s note: Click here to gain INSTANT access to the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Summit to discover the best ways to prevent and REVERSE Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – despite what you’ve been told by conventional medicine.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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