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UCLA study finds eating grapes may reduce Alzheimer’s effects

by Gail Kalinoski, Contributing Reporter | February 08, 2017
We’ve all heard an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but a new pilot study from researchers at the University of Los Angeles, California, has found that eating grapes two times a day may help keep effects of Alzheimer’s disease at bay.

The research, results of a randomized, controlled study, showed that consuming grapes twice a day for six months protected against the decline of metabolic activity in Alzheimer-related parts of the brain, according to a story in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. The UCLA researchers also found that the grape-enriched diet increased metabolism in other areas of the brain that aided in improvements in attention span and working memory.

The researchers published the results of their pilot study in Experimental Gerontology.

“The study examines the impact of grapes as a whole fruit versus isolated compounds and the results suggest that regular intakes of grapes may provide a protective effect against early decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Daniel H. Silverman, lead investigator of the study, said in a prepared statement. “This pilot study contributes to the growing evidence that supports a beneficial role for grapes in neurological and cardiovascular health, however more clinical studies with larger groups of subjects are needed to confirm the effects observed here.”

The small pilot study focused on 10 randomly selected people – evenly split between men and women – with an average age of 72, who were suffering early memory decline, according to the U.K.’s Mirror Online. They were randomly selected to receive either whole grape powder, the equivalent to 2.25 cups of grapes a day, or a polyphenol-free placebo powder that had similar flavor and appearance.

The research team measured cognitive performance at baseline and six months later. They used brain PET scans, also at baseline and after six months, to look for changes in the brain metabolism.

The results of this study showed that consuming grapes preserved healthy metabolic activity in the regions of the brain affected by early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Those who had the placebo showed significant metabolic decline in the same regions of the brain.

“For years scientists have suspected grape polyphenols are part of a healthy diet, as they promote antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Over the years, research has suggested that grapes may help support brain health by working in multiple ways – from reducing oxidative stress in the brain to promoting healthy blood flow in the brain, to helping maintain levels of a key brain chemical that promotes memory, to exerting anti-inflammatory effects,” the Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News notes.

While the news is promising to researchers and those 5.4 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to note that this study, entitled Examining the Impact of Grape Consumption on Brain Metabolism and Cognitive Function in Patients with Mild Decline in Cognition: A Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study, had a very small random sample and it was also commissioned by the California Table Grape Commission.

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