Chances are that you already like the taste of grapes. If you're looking for another reason to eat them, though, then how about this … a recent study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles indicates that consuming them helps protect against Alzheimer's disease.
The study involved 10 test subjects, half of them male and half female, all of whom were in the early stages of cognitive decline.
Half of them were randomly selected to ingest whole grape powder twice a day for six months, at a dosage equivalent to 2.25 cups (532 ml) of fresh grapes per day. The other half consumed what they didn't realize was a placebo – a powder that was similar to the grape powder in flavor and appearance, but that didn't contain grape polyphenol micronutrients.
The participants' cognitive performance was measured once at the beginning of the study and again six months later, as was their brain metabolism via PET scans.
It was discovered that while the placebo group exhibited significant metabolic decline in regions of the brain that are affected by the early stages of Alzheimer's, the grape powder group maintained a healthy level of metabolic activity in those areas. What's more, the grape group also "showed beneficial changes in regional brain metabolism that correlated to improvements in cognition and working memory performance."
This effect is likely due to the known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols. It is believed that they reduce oxidative stress in the brain, while also promoting blood flow within it and maintaining levels of a chemical that boosts memory.
"The study examines the impact of grapes as a whole fruit versus isolated compounds and the results suggest that regular intake of grapes may provide a protective effect against early decline associated with Alzheimer's disease," says study leader Dr. Daniel H. Silverman. "This pilot study contributes to the growing evidence that supports a beneficial role for grapes in neurologic and cardiovascular health, however more clinical studies with larger groups of subjects are needed to confirm the effects observed here."
And if grapes just aren't your thing, an earlier unrelated study suggests that a chemical found in other fruits and vegetables may also help ward off Alzheimer's.
A paper on the UCLA research was recently published in the journal Experimental Gerontology.