Most of us have momentary lapses in memory — we forget a friend's number, a doctor's appointment, or to pay a bill. As we get older, bouts of forgetfulness can sometimes be a symptom of early memory decline, a hallmark of early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Now, researchers at the University of Los Angeles, California, suggest eating grapes twice day could lead to improved attention span and working memory in people with signs of early memory decline.

"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," said Dr. Daniel H. Silverman, lead investigator of the study, in a statement.

Read More: Red Wine May Boost Memory Thanks To Resveratrol

Previous research has focused on resveratrol, a compound found in red grapes and red wine, known to prevent age-related decline in memory. The antioxidant has been acclaimed for its positive effects on the hippocampus, an area of the brain essential to memory, learning, and mood. In aged rats, resveratrol spatial learning and memory improved, while neurogenesis (the growth and development of neurons) approximately doubled.

In the new, small study, published in Experimental Gerontology, UCLA researchers sought to examine the potential of grapes, as a whole fruit, in reducing cognitive decline and other effects of aging in 10 participants with mild cognitive decline. Some participants were given a placebo, while the others received a daily serving of grape powder equal to about 2.5 cups of grapes a day for six months. Brain scans to measure cognitive performance were done at baseline and six months after grape consumption.

The findings revealed those who ingested grape powder maintained healthy levels of metabolic activity, a process for mental processing, in areas of the brain where Alzheimer's appears first. Those following a grape-enriched diet also showed improved metabolic functioning in areas related to cognition and working memory performance. Meanwhile, participants on the placebo exhibited significant metabolic decline in these critical brain regions.

The researchers believe grapes support brain health by reducing oxidative stress in the brain and promoting healthy cerebral blood flow. Grapes also help maintain healthy levels of a critical chemical that helps support memory, and provides beneficial anti-inflammatory effects as well. However, researchers admit more studies need to be done in human populations to confirm grapes' protective effects on the brain.

"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" said Silverman.

It's also important to note the study was funded by the California Table Grape Commission.

Read More: Add Mushrooms To Your Diet To Help Protect Against Alzheimer's, Dementia

The MIND Diet

There are foods that have been found to have protective effects on our brain health. What we eat helps maintain our body’ health via our gut by regulating immune responses and inflammation. 

A 2015 study conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago suggests there is a specific diet plan that may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 53 percent. Popularly known as "The MIND Diet" (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), it combines many elements of two other popular nutrition plans: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Among participants between the ages of 58 and 98, those who followed the MIND recommendations had a level of brain function similar to someone 7.5 years younger.

So, what foods should we eat for better brain health?

Green, Leafy Vegetables

The study found two servings of green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, collards, and other greens a week can aid brain health. Six or more servings tend to yield the greatest benefits. Previous research has linked vitamin K to slowing down cognitive decline. When researchers examined individual nutrients linked with slowing cognitive decline, they found that vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene were most likely helping to keep the brain healthy.

Walnuts

Nuts, part of the MIND diet, can have positive effects on memory and motor development. A study by the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, and funded by the California Walnut Commission, found that mice fed one-quarter cup of walnuts every day had improved memory and motor development as well as a significant reduction in anxiety. The mice were tested on their coordination, psychomotor skills and learning ability.

Olive Oil

Olive oil has long been linked to brain health benefits via the Mediterranean diet, among other diets. In a 2012 study, extra virgin olive oil was found to improve learning and memory and reverse age- and disease-related changes. Researchers think the benefits were due to polyphenols in the oil.

The oil also helps fight against ADDLs, proteins that are toxic to the brain and induce Alzheimer’s.

There are several more superfoods we should add to our diet for our brain health which can be found here.

Source: Lee J, Torosyan N, and Silverman DH. Examining the impact of grape consumption on brain metabolism and cognitive function in patients with mild decline in cognition: A double-blinded placebo controlled pilot study. Experimental Gerontology. 2017.

See Also:

How Food Nutrients Affect Cognitive Health

Maple Syrup May Protect Brain From Alzheimer’s And Other Neurodegenerative Disease