Monday, April 20, 2009

Brain Food #2 - Plant Antioxidants

Scientists are continuously uncovering new characterisitics of plant nutrients. One of the most existing are a class of compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants and people who consume high amounts of plants rich in polyphenols have lower rates of Alzheimer's disease. Cognitive decline and memory loss are the natural result of a lifetime of oxidative and inflammatory injury to brain tissue. Blueberries and grapes are two fruits some of the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols that can suppress/sequester oxidative injury.

Grape skins and seeds are rich in a group of polyphenols known as proanthocyanidins. These compounds have known cardiovascular benefits which is an important risk factor in dementia. Grape seed extracts have been shown to have anti-stress and neuroprotective capacity in studies with rats - preserving rats' cognitive function amid stress. Grape seed protects from oxidation injury in the brain. [It's interesting to note that the grape seed's benefits were improved in the presence of a vital neurotransmitter - choline. All these things work together - they are no silver bullets.] Researchers have seen a reduction in protein deposits associated with Alzheimer's disease in mice fed grape seed extract.

In 1999, a seminal study found that blueberries are potent source of neuroprotective polyphenols, improving rats' performance in an array of cognitive tasks. A 2003 study using mice found that blueberries prevented cognitive deficiencies even thoough these mice had predisposition toward to Alzheimer's disease. The researchers stated, "for the first time, it may be possible to overcome genetic predispositions toward Alzheimer's disease through diet."

Ideas for incorporating grapes and blueberries in your diet: add them to your cerreal, oatmeal of yogurt in the morning. Have a glass of red wine occasionally. Put a bowl out for your kids to munch on...substitute instead of popcorn for movie night.

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