Concord grape juice can significantly improve short-term memory and motor skills, suggest studies in animals.

Research led by James A. Joseph, chief of the neurosciences laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, has demonstrated the benefits of even modest amounts of the juice.

“Concord grape juice appeared to reduce or reverse the loss of sensitivity of muscarinic receptors, thus enhancing cognitive and some motor skills in the test animals,” says Joseph. “In many of the tests we saw significant improvements or trends toward improvement.”

Morris and colleagues subjected 45 rats approaching the end of their expected lifespan to various cognitive tests and challenges.

In a memory test called the Morris water maze, in which animals must use spatial learning to find a platform submerged two centimeters below the surface of water, rats fed a 10% solution of Concord grape juice succeeded roughly 20% faster than rats in a control group.

In tests of balance and motor function, rats consuming a 10% or 50% solution of Concord grape juice showed improvement.

These tests included balancing on a horizontal stationary rod, balancing on a progressively faster-rotating rod and balancing on planks. They also included tests in which rats had to hang onto wires.

The researchers say that grape juice’s benefits may come from its ability to increase production of the neurotransmitter dopamine and its antioxidants effects—research suggests that grape juice has more antioxidants than any other fruit, vegetable or juice tested.

“While these laboratory animal studies are certainly preliminary and much more work needs to be done, we know that consuming high levels of natural dietary antioxidants is a good thing from a number of perspectives,” says Joseph. “And it appears that drinking Concord grape juice has the potential to help retard the mental and physical declines of aging.”

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