Can grapes help protect against alzheimer’s decline?

A pilot study at the University of California, Los Angeles, examined whether consuming grapes could help fight the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers, led by Dr. Daniel H. Silverman, worked with people with early memory decline. They broke the volunteers into two groups – one that received whole grape powder and another that received a placebo powder that looked and tasted like the grape powder.

The “grape group” received the equivalent of 2 ¼ cups of grapes per day. The researchers measured participants’ cognitive performance at the beginning of the study and again six months later. Brain metabolism was also measured at the beginning of the study and six months later by PET scans of the brain. These scans provide predictive and diagnostic value to health professionals evaluating patients presenting with signs of dementia.

When people have Alzheimer’s disease, their brains aren’t working as they should. Some of that, experts believe, is due to problems with brain metabolism. Like the rest of the body, the brain needs energy to work properly. The areas of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s disease tend to need the most energy.

In very basic terms, the process of converting food to energy for the brain is brain metabolism. A healthy brain metabolism is essential for proper functioning. The study showed that people with early memory decline had healthy metabolic activity in the regions of the brain most affected by early Alzheimer’s when they consumed the grape powder. Still, the people who consumed the placebo powder significantly declined in metabolic activity in the same brain regions.

The study also showed that the “grape group” had positive changes in brain metabolism that correlated with cognitive improvement and improved working memory performance.

The pilot study results were published in the journal Experimental Gerontology[HT1]. The results showed that eating grapes daily preserved healthy metabolism, prevented the decline of brain metabolism, and improved memory and attention. According to Dr. Silverman, the study results “suggest that regular intake of grapes may provide a protective effect against early decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Why does eating grapes seem to work? There is evidence that the polyphenols in grapes help promote anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity in the brain. There is also research that suggests grapes may help encourage a healthy brain by reducing oxidative stress in the brain (which can lead to brain function decline), helping maintain levels of a chemical in the brain that promotes memory, and having anti-inflammatory effects.

While the study results are exciting, Dr. Silverman says further studies must be done with larger groups.

At Home Care Assistance, we promote healthy brains and improved quality of life for our clients through multiple programs, including the Balanced Care Method – a holistic approach to healthy longevity – and the Cognitive Therapeutics Method – a cognitive stimulation program developed to keep ageing minds sharp.