In the US, nearly 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2050, that number is estimated to rise to 14 million, however, researchers from UCLA may have found a way to help prevent the awful disease: grapes.
The 10 participants were split up into two groups. One group was given grape powder every day for six months that equaled a serving of about 2.25 cups of grapes. The control group was given a placebo powder that looked and tasted similar to the grape powder the others received.
The participants’ brains were scanned twice: once at the beginning and once at the conclusion of the study. The scans revealed that those who were given the grape powder maintained healthy levels of metabolic activity in parts of the brain where Alzheimer’s initially appears. Alternatively, those who received the placebo showed a decline in metabolic activity in the same areas.
“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,” study leader Dr. Daniel H. Silverman said. “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.”
Not only did grapes show to protect the parts of the brain where Alzheimer’s was prominent, they also seemed to increase metabolism in other areas of the brain related to attention and working memory performance.
According to the researchers, these results could be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols in grapes. This can reduce oxidative stress in the brain, promote a healthy blood flow in the brain, and help maintain ideal chemical levels in the brain.
While there is little known about the cause and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease overall, these findings do provide some hope in being able to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Grapes might not be the only solution, either. According to Jonathan Graff-Redford, M.D. from Mayo Clinic, there are several other precautions you could take to reduce your chances of Alzheimer’s.
“There’s strong evidence that several factors associated with leading a healthy lifestyle may play a role in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia,” he said. “However, more research is needed before any of these factors can be considered a proven strategy to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”
One example he gave was the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with an improvement in cognition and reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
And while this debilitating disease typically affects those 65 and older, it’s best to start making healthy changes now. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, so it’s worth taking seriously.
Graff-Redford said it really seems to just come down to practicing good health. Avoid smoking, eat a balanced diet and avoid cardiovascular issues, stay physically active, practice good mental health and work on your cognitive and memory skills. All of these things can improve your overall health and lessen your chance of getting Alzheimer’s.
And, of course, don’t forget to eat your grapes!