The latest research says that one fruit may really have huge health benefits. At least for folks fighting the effects of Alzheimer's disease (AD). This is welcome news for some 36 million people worldwide with the disease.
The latest Alzheimer's drugs have been plagued by failure. Cutting-edge drugs like Alzhemed and Flurizan have failed to fight AD. Two studies on Semagacestat, a drug from Eli Lilly, were halted after the drug worsened dementia symptoms in patients.
The problem is not improving. AD drugs are in the news again. The newest have been linked to a type of brain swelling called vasogenic edema.
But pioneering doctors believe your best defense could be a good old-fashioned apple.
Sounds too good to be true? Not according to Dr. Thomas Shea and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts. They've finished a clinical trial that shows apple juice fights AD in as little as one month.
"We anticipate that the day may come when foods like apples [and] apple juice are recommended along with the most popular Alzheimer's medications," says Dr. Shea.
Decade of Science Supports Claim
Dr. Shea is a director of the UML Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration. He's a leading pioneer on the subject, having studied the effects of apples on brain health for over a decade. He's published several studies that show the brain-boosting benefits of apples.
Most recently, Dr. Shea's research team studied 21 patients between the ages of 72 to 93. Each of the patients was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe AD. He gave them two four-ounce glasses of apple juice each day for a month. After just 30 days, his team noted major changes in mood and behavior. Changes included improvement in anxiety, depression and delusion.
"In addition to changes in memory, there's a change in mood that often accompanies AD," says Dr. Shea. "We found that people receiving apple juice displayed fewer of the symptoms. They were calmer, less agitated, and at the end of the day, had a better quality of life."
His findings were published in the June 2010 issue of the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias.
In a study last year, Dr. Shea tested lab mice in a series of maze trials. He gave them the equivalent of two glasses of apple juice each day for 30 days. He then put them through a series of traditional tests.
The results backed up his theory. The mice produced less "beta amyloid" - the protein fragment which forms "senile plaques" - which are often found in the brains of people with AD.
"Apple juice keep[s] one's mind functioning at its best," says Dr. Shea. "It may delay key aspects of AD."
His team has also showed that apple juice increases the production of a brain transmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine helps slow the mental decline of people with AD. In that same study, he investigated whether apple juice could also improve memory. He put mice through a series of memory and learning maze tests. The mice that drank apple juice performed better on the memory tests.
"The study show[ed] that consumption of apple juice can help reduce problems associated with memory loss," concluded Dr. Shea.
While Dr. Shea is one of the pioneers in this field, his evidence does not stand alone. There are several other research scientists publishing supportive findings. One such scientist is Dr. Eric Larson from the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, Washington.
Juice Beats Out Whole Fruit
Dr. Larson concluded a huge study, observing 2,000 people over the course of 10 years. He reported that people who drink fruit juice three times a week reduced the risk of AD by a whopping 76 percent. People who drank it twice a week reduced their risk by 16 percent.
Surprisingly, the best benefits came from drinking fruit juice, as opposed to whole fruit. Dr. Larson theorizes this is because of the higher antioxidant quota in juice. According to him, all-natural fruit juice uses the core, seeds and skin of the fruit. These are the parts of the fruit that have the highest concentration of natural antioxidants. It's those parts that people usually skip - and thus miss the best antioxidant benefits.
He also notes that fruit juice contains more antioxidants than vitamin C or E supplements.
"The brain accumulates damage due to oxidation as we age," says Dr. Larson. "If you protect the brain from that damage, you protect the person from AD."
Team member Dr. Qi Dai says "drinking fruit juices was [linked] with a decreased risk of AD. These findings suggest that fruit juices play an important role in delaying AD."
It's important to note that the team used all-natural, pure fruit juices. Those juices shouldn't be confused with high-sugar, "fruit" beverages, which only include a limited percentage of actual fruit juice.
You should opt for organic apples. Non-organic apples top the "dirty dozen " list of foods contaminated with pesticides.
Build Your Own Brain-Boosting Diet
Many other studies say that apples fight AD. Adding apple juice to your diet is one safe and simple solution that may offer huge benefits.
But apples don't just benefit your brain. They also help maintain good heart health.
While apples are a great source of brain protection, many other foods also promote good brain health. You can combine these with a glass or two of apple juice each day to optimize brain-health benefits. Keep in mind that consuming too many fruit juices each day means additional sugar in your diet, which can affect insulin levels. Most AD studies limited daily apple juice consumption to just two four-ounce glasses.
Several key factors make up a good brain-healthy diet. The Alzheimer's Association suggests that an effective brain-boosting plan should include:
Brain Healthy Foods
Dark skinned fruits and veggies offer brain-boosting benefits. Fish that are rich in omega-3s are also great sources. Opt for mackerel, salmon and tuna. They contain DHA, which is the best form of omega-3.
Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA supports this theory. Tufts research says antioxidant-rich foods fight the onset of AD. Foods with high levels of antioxidants prevent short-term memory loss. They also boost brain cell activity and protect blood vessels against oxygen damage.
Supercharge Your Brain
It's easy to build an antioxidant-rich diet. You can combine this with some other brain-boosting foods. Check out the list below for a start on sharpening your brain:
A brain-healthy diet is easy to build and the benefits are great. Anyone who wants to enjoy brain health well into their old age will be smart enough to incorporate these simple foods into their diet.
So don't delay: start building today to enjoy better brain function tomorrow
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