A diet enriched with grapes seems to have a dramatic effect on eyesight – at least in a special breed of mice prone to develop retinal damage when they get older. These findings spurred suggestions that grapes might also help protect humans against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
This condition is believed to result from the declining function of specific retinal cells needed to convert light into nerve impulses to the brain. The study in mice showed that adding grapes to their diet slowed the build-up of metabolic waste products called lipofuscin thereby reducing oxidative damage in the key retinal cells.
Antioxidant compounds found in grapes were credited with the eye protection seen in the study. The mice that received the grape enriched diet were compared to a group of similar mice that ate a diet with added lutein, as well as a group fed a normal mouse diet. The added lutein helped somewhat, but not as much as the grapes.