Joseph, J.A., B. Shukitt-Hale, L.M. Willis, 2009. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J. Nutr. 139: 1813S–1817S.
Numerous studies have indicated that individuals consuming a diet containing high amounts of fruits and vegetables exhibit fewer age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Research from our laboratory has suggested that dietary supplementation with fruit or vegetable extracts high in antioxidants (e.g. blueberries, strawberries, walnuts, and Concord grape juice) can decrease the enhanced vulnerability to oxidative stress that occurs in aging and these reductions are expressed as improvements in behavior. Additional mechanisms involved in the beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables include enhancement of neuronal communication via increases in neuronal signaling and decreases in stress signals induced by oxidative/inflammatory stressors (e.g. nuclear factor kB). Moreover, collaborative findings indicate that blueberry or Concord grape juice supplementation in humans with mild cognitive impairment increased verbal memory performance, thus translating our animal findings to humans. Taken together, these results suggest that a greater intake of high-antioxidant foods such as berries, Concord grapes, and walnuts may increase “health span” and enhance cognitive and motor function in aging.