Cognitive (Mind) Health
We invite you to discover the emerging science behind Concord grapes. While more research is needed to confirm Concord grapes’ link to health, in this section you will find the very latest information on grape science.
Please note: The following research overviews are based on a thorough assessment of the studies, but they are intended to be summaries only. Please refer to publications in each section for further details. As always, please keep study designs and limitations in mind when assessing how this research may or may not relate to your health or the health of your clients.
Researchers have begun investigating the role of Concord grapes in cognitive function. The research in this area is very preliminary. However, emerging science suggests that Concord grapes may offer certain health benefits for the mind.1,2,4,5
Science indicates that the polyphenols in Concord grapes help support flexible arteries6-10 which, in turn, may help promote healthy blood flow to the mind.11
Oxidative stress, caused by free radicals in the body, can have a damaging effect on the brain.12 The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage because of its high use of oxygen relative to its size and few antioxidant defense systems, among other factors.12 Oxidative damage can affect enzymatic activities in many proteins including glutamine synthetase, which converts glutamate to glutamine. Glutamate is neurotoxic, and thus a buildup of this amino acid can be harmful. In the brain, oxidative damage effects important neurochemical processes such as dopamine synthesis.12 Polyphenols help neutralize free radicals and thus may help to combat the effects of oxidative stress.
Recent studies suggest that Concord grape juice may help slow the progression of age-related memory decline and motor function in older adults.2-4
Additional research with grape seed extract and other grape-derived polyphenol extracts have shown positive results in slowing progression of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, in laboratory studies through preventing build-up of certain proteins in the brain associated with such diseases.5,16-19 Whether these findings extend to grapes and other grape products, as well as in humans, remains to be determined.
Studies suggest that a diet rich in antioxidants, such as those found in fruits, vegetables, and their juices, can help slow and possibly even reverse age-related cognitive decline.11 The findings presented are exciting, but most research has taken place in a laboratory setting. More clinical research needs to be conducted to truly understand if Concord grapes can impact cognitive health in humans.
Guide to Navigating Research Studies
The definition of scientific research is performing a methodical study in order to prove a theory or answer a question. The following is a brief overview of different types of research used in health and nutrition exploration 1:
1. Hulley SB, Cummings SR, Browner WS, Grady D, Hearst N, Newman TB. Designing Clinical Research: An Epidemiologic Approach. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007.
An observational study, usually a retrospective study (a study that looks backward in time) that compares two groups of people: 1) those with the specific condition (e.g., disease) being studied (cases) and, 2) a similar group of people without that condition (controls). Researchers compare these two groups of people and important characteristics, such as certain lifestyle choices, to determine what factors may be associated with the condition under investigation.
A type of study that often includes patients with specific health conditions who could benefit from receiving a new treatment. These studies can also be performed in healthy subjects. The end goal of a clinical study (also called clinical research or clinical trial) is to determine effectiveness and safety of a health intervention in humans.
An observational study, usually prospective (looking forward), that follows a group of similar people over time. The goal is to determine which factors and exposures affect the development of a specific outcome or health condition (e.g., disease) during the study’s time period.
A type of observational study, often given as a survey, that examines a group of subjects during a single occasion, or over a very short period of time. This type of study aims to describe the relationship between health-related conditions (e.g., metabolic syndrome, hypertension) and other factors that exist in the general population (e.g., dietary intake, physical activity levels), during a particular time period.
A type of study in which researchers simply observe subjects and measure the associations between certain characteristics (e.g., fruit/vegetable intake) and specific outcomes (e.g., obesity). Examples of observational studies include case-control studies, cross-sectional studies, and cohort studies. While these studies gather important information, they cannot prove that a specific treatment or factor affects health.
A small scale, preliminary study that is conducted to determine the potential for a larger study.
A stage of research that often occurs prior to trials involving humans. This type of research can help determine mechanisms of action of a treatment, or how the treatment is causing the effect, as well as help ensure the safety of treatment in subsequent human trials.
Testing performed in a controlled environment, such as a test tube or a Petri dish, instead of living organisms. In vitro literally means "within the glass" in Latin.
These experiments are performed on tissue (e.g., animal or human cells) taking place outside of the organism, such as in a laboratory setting. In Latin, this means "out of the living."
These tests are done on whole, living organisms. Technically, animal and human testing are two forms of in vivo research, which means "within the living." These experiments may be performed outside of a laboratory setting.
A study designed to provide the most credible information about the cause and effects of treatment. These types of studies are recognized as unbiased because they involve the random assignment of treatments to subjects being studied.
The tendency throughout any stage of research to generate findings that may not reflect "true values." In clinical trials, researchers try to avoid many kinds of bias, including selection by randomizing subjects, measurement by creating placebos and performing blind trials, and confounding by carefully designing the study and analyzing the findings.
Study in which subjects do not know whether they receive the treatment or the placebo, which assists in prevention of bias. Double-blinded studies are a higher level of scientific rigor because neither the participants nor the investigators know who is receiving the treatment or the placebo. A double-blind crossover study means each participant undergoes both the treatment and control scenario, typically with a wash-out period in between.
Study that allows researchers to isolate the effect size of the treatment by comparing a group given a simulated treatment (e.g., grape flavored drink) to those with the real treatment (e.g., Concord grape juice), which reduces measurement bias. The placebo should match as closely as possible to the treatment without containing the active ingredients.
Study involving participants who are randomly assigned to either the treatment or the placebo group, reducing selection bias.