A potential agent against Alzheimer’s disease may be sitting in every red grape. The world’s leading cause of dementia may be somewhat subdued — i.e. memory may be saved — with the help of red grape seed extract.
The new treatment is a polphenolic extract. In a new study, it proved to have significant effects on the brains of mice. (A long way from humans, but these ideas always start on the animal level.) Researchers found that mice prone to brain changes that were similar to Alzheimer’s had better cognitive function if they took the grape seed extract in their water.
Polyphenols are found in wine, tea, dark chocolate, vegetables and fruits and are powerful antioxidants. They are largely responsible for providing the healthy component of red wine. In the study, mice received about as much polyphenols as a person would get by drinking one to two glasses of red wine daily. But, of course, the issue of alcohol is never cut and dry, and researchers flip back and forth constantly about wine’s healthfulness and its negative consequences. Plus, people with heart problems, weight issues, diabetes and other chronic illnesses may not derive much benefit from the addition of red wine to their diet.
That’s why the researchers tested an extract of red grape seed instead. Could this stop dementia-like progress in mice? They gave the rodents the equivalent of one gram of polyphenols for humans, or fed them plain water. Five months later, the mice taking grape seed extract had up to 50% less clumping of a particular protein in the brain. When amyloid-beta protein starts building up, it often leads to plaques and blockages in the brain — an effect often seen in dementia patients.
The idea behind grape seed extract, and thus red wine, is that, by reducing the amount of clumping protein, we could slow the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s patients. And, thus, keep memory fresher for longer. When a disease is not curable, limiting symptoms is the name of the game.
The rodents involved also did better when tested on their memory of a maze, but those mice drinking just water had no improvement. Therefore, the researchers believe that polyphenols in red grapes could limit dementia-triggered brain damage as well.