Question:

I have heard that drinking red wine in moderation may help people stay mentally sharp. Since I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, could I enjoy the same benefit by substituting plain grape juice?

Answer:

A number of studies suggest that grape juice can provide brain benefits similar to, and perhaps longer-lasting than, those of red wine, most likely because both beverages contain flavonoids, compounds that are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

A study published in the March 2016 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  found that a small group of middle-aged women who drank a daily 12-ounce glass of Concord grape juice for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in cognitive function and driving performance compared to a similar group who received a placebo.

The improvements remained even after the participants stopped drinking grape juice, the researchers found. The results supported earlier research involving older adults with age-related cognitive decline, which suggested that drinking Concord grape juice can improve mental functioning in cognitive tasks such as list learning and perhaps also short-term retention and spatial memory.

-Maurizio Fava, MD, Director, Division of Clinical Research of the MGH Research Institute

Did You Know?

Flavonoids in grape juice have been shown to reduce oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol that can lead to plaque formation on artery walls, just as flavonoids in wine do. In addition, research suggests that alcohol breaks down the healthful antioxidants in wine more rapidly and eliminates them from the body, while antioxidants in grape juice linger. For maximum benefit, drink grape juice made from purple grapes, which are especially rich in flavonoids.