Grape Juice, Blueberries and Walnuts Improve Cognitive Impairment

Studies have shown that people who consume high portions of vegetables and fruits in diet are less prone to age-associated diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. This study was a review of previous studies, which showed that extracts of certain vegetables and fruits such as Concord grape juice as well as blueberries, walnuts and strawberries have high amounts of antioxidants that help fight oxidative stress. This review also showed that in people with cognitive impairment, intake of blueberry and Concord grape juice improves verbal memory skills.

Earlier studies have shown that vegetables and fruits, especially those that are colored, contain anti-inflammatory substances and antioxidants that protect against many age-associated diseases. Concord grape juice as well as blueberry and strawberry extracts contain these antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in high amounts. Thus, they are believed to protect against age-associated motor diseases and diseases of memory and cognition. The ability to reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals is considered to be responsible for the protective actions of these fruit and vegetable extracts. Studies have suggested that these anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants are responsible for the plant’s survival. The agents are a complex mixture of phytochemicals. They act in synergy to enhance nerve protection in humans, which deteriorates with age. This review was attempted to evaluate the changes in oxidative stress and inflammation in aging populations. The role of Concord grape juice, berries, and walnuts in the prevention and protection against these changes was also assessed.

For this study, 76 previously published studies were reviewed and the mechanisms behind oxidative stress and inflammation were deduced. This was done to assess their role in aging and cognitive impairment. Moreover, earlier findings on the benefits of Concord grapes in maintenance of brain health and reversing the effects of aging in rats used in laboratory experiments and in humans were also reviewed. The effects of supplementation with berries and walnuts were also assessed.

Key findings
* Inflammation and oxidative stress caused by the generation of free radicals lead to age-related changes in nerves. This affects cognitive as well as motor abilities in the elderly.
* Polyphenols present in Concord grapes, berries, and walnuts benefit cognition in animals.
* Concord grape juice contains polyphenols (specifically proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins)  that provide cognitive benefits. In humans, intake of Concord grape juice in a 12-week study led to improvement in verbal memory skills compared to intake of placebo.
* Supplementation with blueberries and strawberries in laboratory animals showed a definite improvement in motor abilities, especially in aged animals who were on the supplements for a long duration compared to those who did not take the supplements. The berries when supplemented to humans also showed similar benefits, apart from enhancing memory and learning skills.

Next steps/Shortcomings
Further studies that illustrate the actual cellular mechanisms by which these plant polyphenols and other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents function are warranted. The identification of individual components and their putative benefits is also necessary. Translation of these benefits in larger human populations over longer spans of time is also suggested.

This study is a review of previous studies that reveal the benefits of fruits and vegetables in prevention of age-associated cognitive and motor disorders. Concord grape juice as well as strawberries, walnuts, and blueberries are found to be important in the prevention of inflammation and oxidative stress – both of which are associated with many age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. These fruits and vegetables contain polyphenols and other agents that protect nerve cells from age-associated damage. Animal studies with Concord grape juice have shown benefits in terms of cognitive skills and the results have been replicated in humans. Similarly, berries like strawberries and blueberries also enhance motor abilities in aged laboratory mice on regular supplementation. In humans, berries have been shown to improve memory and learning skills. The authors conclude that these results indicate the possibility of increasing the health span of humans by reversing the effects of senescence and aging on the cognitive and behavioral abilities, through dietary modifications.

For More Information:
Grape Juice, Berries, and Walnuts Affect Brain Aging and Behavior
Publication Journal: The Journal of Nutrition, July 2009
By James A. Joseph; Barbara Shukitt-Hale; Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts

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