Most of us take careful consideration of what we eat to keep our bodies healthy, especially as we begin to age. However, when it comes to eating right to promote brain health, it can become more difficult to know what’s best to be putting on your plate. Fortunately, research has found that there are ways to ward off cognitive decline through your diet, with a study finding that eating one food in particular every day can go a long way in protecting you from Alzheimer’s disease. Read on to see what you should be making your daily snack.
In a study published in the journal Experimental Gerontology in 2017, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) set out to test theories that naturally occurring compounds found in grapes or wine could help potentially slow cognitive decline or other mental effects of aging. The team gathered 10 participants with a mean age of 72 and all suffering from “mild” cognitive decline and issued them a daily serving of grape powder equal to about 2.25 cups of the fruit. As a control, some participants were given a placebo powder that looked and tasted identical to the active grape formulation being tested.
The team then performed brain scans and ran cognitive performance tests on all participants six months later. Results found that participants taking the active grape powder maintained a healthy level of metabolic activity in areas of the brain typically affected earliest by Alzheimer’s disease, while those in the placebo group saw a metabolic decline in the same significant parts.
The researchers concluded that even in powdered form, grapes could protect “against significant metabolic decline in Alzheimer-related areas of the brain.” Results also found that participants on the grape diet saw improvements in their memory and attention performance during tests,
“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,” Daniel H. Silverman, MD, PhD, lead investigator of the study and head of the neuronuclear imaging section of the Ahmanson Translational Imaging Division at UCLA, said in a statement.
Based on their findings and previous studies supported by their findings, the UCLA team theorized that natural compounds in grapes make them a good brain food for several reasons. besides speculating that the fruit helps aid in healthy blood flow to the brain and have anti-inflammatory effects, researchers believe the fruit can help reduce oxidative stress on the brain, as well as helping to maintain higher levels of a vital brain chemical that can boost the memory.
The team pointed out that while this was a small-scale study, further research at a larger scale could not only help support their findings that daily grape consumption could help in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, but also show how the fruit could help combat other health issues as well. “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,” Silverman concluded.
Other research has shown that other daily snacks and beverages can have a big impact on brain health. In one such study published in in Dec. 2016, a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore gathered 957 participants from China aged 55 or older to examine the effects drinking tea might have on dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
After examining dietary habits, results found that those who drank tea every day saw their risk of developing dementia reduced by 50 percent. In the case of participants who carry the APOE e4 gene that puts them at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, daily tea drinkers saw their risk of cognitive decline drop by as much as 86 percent.
“Despite high-quality drug trials, effective pharmacological therapy for neurocognitive disorders such as dementia remains elusive, and current prevention strategies are far from satisfactory,” Feng Lei, the study’s author and an assistant professor from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life.”