Two recent studies in mice have suggested that grape seed extract may fight Alzheimer’s disease by both reducing circulating levels of amyloid beta and inhibiting the formation of amyloid oligomers.
The first study, published in the journal Neurotoxicity Research in 2009, found that compared to a control diet, long term feeding of a diet containing 2% grape seed extract to mice genetically altered to be susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease resulted in a 33% and 44% reduction in amyloid beta levels in the brain and blood respectively.
A second study, led by Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease earlier this year, found that administering grape seed extract to mice bred to develop an Alzheimer’s like illness resulted in reduced levels of a specific amyloid beta oligomer known as Aβ*56 which had previously been correlated with cognitive decline in mice.
Amyloid beta plays a central role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease because the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques in the brain is one of the hallmarks of the disease. Recently however, attention has focused on free-floating amlyoid beta oligomers which are smaller, soluble bundles of amyloid beta protein, as some studies have suggested that these may be the primary cause of cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease rather than the plaques themselves.
Grape seed extract is one of the most concentrated sources of polyphenolic antioxidants. The primary phenolic compounds in grape seed extract are gallic acid, catechin, and epicatechin. GSE supplements are widely available on the internet and it is commonly marketed as a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic potential. Although research into grape seed extract is still in its infancy, there is at least some evidence of anti-carcinogenic effects with respect to skin cancer, breast cancer, and leukaemia (see here, here, and here).
Unfortunately, no human clinical trials involving grape seed extract as an Alzheimer’s treatment are currently being carried out. Given the lack of enthusiasm by the pharmaceutical industry in general towards natural, unpatentable treatments, it is unlikely that any large scale Alzheimer’s trials will be carried out in the near future.
For those looking to use grape seed extract, look for a supplement standardized to contain 90-95% proanthocyanidins, as these are the key compounds responsible for the beneficial effects of grape seed extract.
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