As America’s baby boomers continue to age, the number of people 65 years of age and older is expected to double to 70 million by 2030. As such, age-related cognitive decline and incidence of chronic conditions, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, is on the rise. Research supports that good nutrition – particularly a diet including phytonutrient-rich fruits, vegetables and their juices – plays an important role in the aging process and may help slow and possibly even reverse age-related physical and mental declines.
Results from a recent pilot human study suggest that including Concord grape juice in the diet may provide benefit for older adults with early memory decline. This study represents the first placebo-controlled human study to investigate whether regular consumption of a polyphenol-rich food or beverage could have beneficial effects against age-related cognitive decline.
The results were presented at the 38th annual scientific meeting of the American Aging Society in Boulder, Colo., May 30-June 2, 2008. The study, led by Robert Krikorian, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, included 12 adults with early memory decline. Participants drank a total of 15 to 21 ounces, depending on body weight, of either Concord grape juice or placebo daily, divided among meals, for a 12-week period. The beverages were equal in calorie and sugar content but only the Concord grape juice contained natural polyphenolic compounds, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Participants who drank the Concord grape juice showed significant improvement in list learning and trends suggested improved short-term retention and spatial memory.
According to Dr. Krikorian, “These results with Concord grape juice are very encouraging and certainly warrant additional study. A simple, easy-to-incorporate dietary intervention that could improve or protect memory function, such as drinking Concord grape juice daily, may be beneficial for the aging population.”
Study collaborators included Tiffany Nash and Marcelle Shidler from the University of Cincinnati as well as James Joseph and Barbara Shukitt-Hale from the USDA-ARS Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Joseph and Shukitt-Hale’s ground-breaking animal research has previously shown that supplementation of certain polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables resulted in improved cognitive function in animal models. In fact, this human study was a natural next step based on their 2006 publication in Nutrition where they reported that polyphenol-rich Concord grape juice supplementation in the diet of aged rats resulted in beneficial effects on memory and cognitive function [Effects of Concord grape juice on cognitive and motor deficits in aging. Nutrition. 2006. 22(3):295-302]] (Eurekalert).