Concord Grape Juice Improves Memory

January 24, 2010 by  
Filed under dementia

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“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”




Polyphenols are plant-based dietary compounds with known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  These biological properties of polyphenols reduce the ongoing damage to the DNA in our cells that results from the toxic byproducts of metabolism, including free radicals.  Polyphenols have, therefore, been the subject of intense research as potential prevention agents for a variety of human ailments, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, and cancer.  (The evidence-based role of dietary polyphenols in cancer prevention is discussed in great detail in my soon-to-be-published book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.”)

Foods that are naturally rich in polyphenols include most blue and red berries, grapes (including red wine), pomegranates, walnuts, peanuts, olive oil, green tea, dark chocolate and cocoa, coffee, and beer (as well as other fruits and vegetables). 

Recent animal research has suggested that polyphenols derived from grape seeds can reduce the development of plaques in the brain (at least in mice) that are associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  Now, a newly published prospective, randomized, double-blind clinical research study suggests that Concord grape juice, which is rich in polyphenols, may be able to improve early memory decline in older adults.

In this small study, which has been published in the British Journal of Nutrition, 12 elderly adults with declining memory were divided into two groups.  The “experimental group” received daily Concord grape juice supplements for a period of 12 weeks.  The second group, the “control group,” received placebo supplements that were identical in appearance to Concord grape juice, but which contained no juice.  Neither the 12 patient volunteers nor the research assistants were aware of which patients received grape juice and which patients received the placebo while the study was being conducted.

Standardized, validated tests of memory, and other aspects of cognitive function, were administered to all 12 patient volunteers participating in this study.  These cognitive function tests revealed statistically significant improvements in verbal learning skills among the patients who received 12 weeks of Concord grape juice (when compared to the placebo group).  Although not statistically significant, improvements were also noted in both verbal and spatial recall among the patient volunteers who received the grape juice supplements in this small clinical study with a brief duration of patient follow-up.

While larger studies, with a longer duration of follow-up, will be required to confirm the findings of this small pilot study, the prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind nature of this small study does give it considerably more predictive power than the much larger dietary survey-based epidemiological studies that are more commonly used in disease prevention research. 

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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author

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