Evidence keeps mounting that grapes and their delicious derivatives are linked to a gigantic cluster of important and sometimes surprising health benefits — for body and mind alike.
The latest surprising finding: A new study conducted by the University of Leeds shows for the first time that grapes can even improve driving skills.
Study participants included 25 healthy women ages 40-50 who held full-time jobs and were raising preteen children. At the beginning of the study, the researchers assessed the women’s memory skills and cognition. Using a computer simulator, they also measured the women’s ability to steer and follow a car ahead of them.
The women were randomly assigned to drink either 12 ounces a day of 100 percent Concord grape juice or 12 ounces a day of a look-alike, taste-alike placebo drink for 12 weeks
At the end of the study, the Concord grape juice drinkers scored significantly higher than the placebo group on measures of memory, cognition, and driving ability. On the computer simulator, they demonstrated more accurate steering and a quicker response to changes in the speed of the lead vehicle.
“What we observed in the study would account for about a reduction in stopping distance by about 11 meters at the speeds driven (about 40-60 mph),” says lead researcher Louise Dye. “Thus, this could have implications for reductions in rear-end collisions if cars ahead make sudden stops.”
Previous research has shown that Concord grape juice can boost memory and cognition in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.
“This is the first time that the effects of Concord grape juice consumption were observed in younger, otherwise healthy adults,” Dye tells Newsmax Health. “It suggests a beneficial effect in those with moderate stress levels.”
So how does grape juice benefit the brain?
Grapes, juice, and wine all contain high amounts of polyphenol flavonoids such as resveratrol, which are antioxidant-rich compounds that give red and purple grapes their distinctive color. Such compounds improve blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain, and include nutrients that promote brain function.
“Our study is consistent with animal studies which theorize that flavonoids, the plant nutrients found in Concord grapes, exert their action in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is responsible for spatial memory, navigation and converting short-term memory to long-term memory,” says Dye.
Red wine contains even higher concentrations of brain-friendly polyphenol flavonoids.
Data collected from 19 countries shows that moderate red wine consumption significantly lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Researchers theorize that the resveratrol in red wine helps prevent blood platelets from sticking together, which maintains open and flexible blood vessels and ensures good blood flow to the brain.
Moderate red wine consumptions is defined as no more than one five-ounce glass per day for women and no more than two five-ounce glasses per day for men.
Grape products, especially red wine, have also long been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions, and an increased likelihood of a long life.
But red and purple grape juices may provide some of the same heart-healthy benefits as red wine. These include a reduced risk of blood clots, lower levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, prevention of damage to coronary arteries, and maintenance of healthy blood pressure.
In addition, red and purple grapes and grape juice — and red wine — are associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the lung, colon, prostate, esophagus, mouth, pharynx, endometrium, and pancreas.
Studies have also suggested red wine may even help prevent breast cancer. Unlike other alcoholic beverages, red wine reduces estrogen levels while increasing testosterone levels, which inhibits the development and spread of breast-cancer cells.
Other potential benefits associated with grapes, juice and wine include:
• A reduced risk of diabetes, diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy.
• Reduced knee pain from osteoarthritis.
• Enhanced immune function.
• A reduced risk of depression.
• Protection against severe sunburn.
• Prevention of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.
• Reduced brain damage from strokes.
• Increased blood levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
• A reduced risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Compared to moderate wine drinkers, wine abstainers are twice as likely — and moderate beer and liquor drinkers are four times as likely — to develop the disease.
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