July 1, 2008 / 6:30 PM / in 11 years

Grape seed extract may fight Alzheimer's

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A red grape seed extract that packs the punch of red wine — without the alcohol — could help protect against memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease, research in mice suggests.

Rodents prone to developing Alzheimer’s-like brain changes showed better cognitive function at 11 months of age — when they would have been expected to already have some memory impairment — if they were given the grape seed polyphenolic extract in their drinking water, Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues found.

Polyphenolic compounds are antioxidants naturally found in wine, tea, chocolate, and some fruits and vegetables. The mice in the study received levels of polyphenols equivalent to what a person would consume with a daily glass or two of red wine.

While the health benefits of moderate red wine consumption are fairly clear, Pasinetti noted in an interview, “moderate consumption of alcohol in the form of red wine might have potential complications for people with maybe metabolic disorders or cardiovascular disorders.”

To sidestep the alcohol issue, Pasinetti and his team investigated whether an extract of red grape seeds sold as MegaNatural AZ by Polyphenolics, a Madera, California-based grape products supplier, might prevent the progress of the disease in mice. Polyphenolics helped fund the research.

Mice received an amount equivalent to 1 gram of polyphenolics daily for humans, or plain water. After five months of treatment, the grape seed extract-fed mice had 30 percent to 50 percent less clumping of amyloid-beta protein in their brains.

Amyloid-beta protein clumping is a key step in the formation of the plaques and tangles within the brain seen in Alzheimer’s patients, Pasinetti told Reuters Health, so preventing it could conceivably help slow brain degeneration.

Animals treated with the extract also performed significantly better on a standard test of spatial learning memory than rodents who didn’t receive it. But the extract did not improve maze performance in control mice, suggesting that it improved cognitive function in the Alzheimer’s prone rodents by reducing brain damage due to plaque formation.

Pasinetti and his colleagues are now planning clinical trials to determine if MegaNatural AZ could prevent or even treat Alzheimer’s in humans.

SOURCE: The Journal of Neuroscience, June 18, 2008.

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