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How Grapes Protect Your Heart

grapesA diet enriched by grapes may prevent the downhill sequence of heart failure after years of high blood pressure. A study suggests that grapes may prevent heart health risks beyond the simple blood pressure-lowering benefits that come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

The heart-healthy benefits of grapes may be the result of the phytochemicals (naturally occurring antioxidants) activating a protective process in the genes that reduces damage to the heart muscle.

Researchers studied the effect regular table grapes had when added to the diets of rats. After 18 weeks, the rats that received the grape-enriched diet powder had lower blood pressure, better heart function, and fewer signs of heart muscle damage.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Although I often suggest most people limit their fruit intake due to its high sugar content, fruit does have some beneficial properties, and grapes are a great example of this.

When rats bred to develop high blood pressure were fed a powder made from green, red, and black grapes, not only did their blood pressure go down, but their heart function improved and they had fewer signs of heart muscle damage than rats not fed grapes.

The grape powder even outshined the blood pressure medicine hydrazine, as although it lowered the rats’ blood pressure, it did not protect their hearts from damage.

This is because grapes contain a blend of phytochemicals -- naturally occurring antioxidants -- that work synergistically to turn on protective genes that reduced damage to heart muscles.

A study last year also found that grapes go a long way toward preventing clogged arteries. Compared to the control group that was given water, those given grapes or grape juice experienced several health benefits, including:

• Lower cholesterol
• Less oxidative stress
• Less fat accumulation in their aorta

The Seeds and the Skins: Two Important Parts of Grapes

When enjoying fruits it’s important to eat them in whole, fresh form, as this way you get access to all of their beneficial properties. In the case of grapes, 90 percent of the nutritional health benefit is located in the skin and seeds.

Grape seeds are powerful antioxidants, and their extract is rich in proanthocyanidins. Scientific studies have shown the antioxidant power of proanthocyanidins is 20 times stronger than vitamin C and 50 times stronger than vitamin E.

Aside from helping to lower your blood pressure, grape seed extract may have a positive impact on a number of diseases including:

Grape seeds have also been shown to improve flexibility in joints, arteries and body tissues such as your heart, and research studies have shown grape seed helps improve blood circulation by strengthening capillaries, arteries and veins.

Resveratrol, meanwhile, is an antioxidant found in grape skins. It is making headlines because it appears to slow down aging and even increase the lifespan of human cells. It reduces oxidative stress damage to your cardiovascular system by neutralizing free radicals, and helps support your body’s natural defenses.

Resveratrol is also unique among antioxidants because it can cross the blood-brain barrier to help protect your brain and nervous system, and studies show that its benefits are wide reaching, including:

• Protecting your cells from free radical damage
• Inhibiting the spread of cancer, especially prostate cancer
• Lowering your blood pressure

• Keeping your heart healthy and improving elasticity in your blood vessels
• Normalizing your anti-inflammatory response
• Helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Can Grapes be a Healthy Part of Your Diet?

If you are healthy, eating a handful of organic grapes as a snack is certainly reasonable. However, I would conservatively estimate that 75 percent of the U.S. population needs to restrict fruit intake. Anyone with high insulin levels needs to be careful.

You can measure your fasting insulin level, or if you have any of the following problems it is highly likely you have insulin resistance syndrome, and would benefit from restricting fruit:

• Overweight
• High Cholesterol
• High Blood Pressure
• Diabetes
• Yeast Infections
Additionally, protein nutritional types need to be careful about eating too much fruit.

To get the most health bang for your buck, if you eat grapes choose muscadine grapes. Muscadine grapes actually have the highest concentration of resveratrol in nature because of their extra thick skins and numerous seeds, where it is concentrated.

How Else Can You Get the Benefits of Grapes?

Some of the healthy compounds in grapes, such as resveratrol, are also found in abundance in red wine. Resveratrol in particular is highly soluble in alcohol, meaning your body may absorb more of it from red wine than from other sources.

But there ARE other sources out there, including cocoa, dark chocolate and peanuts, so don’t feel you must drink alcohol to get the benefits.

You can also get many of the benefits of grapes in supplement form, which may make sense particularly for those of you trying to cut back on sugar in all forms. Be sure to look for one made from muscadine grapes that uses WHOLE grape skins and seeds, as this is where many of the benefits are concentrated.