Natural healers and conventional physicians alike have long been familiar with the ability of red wine – when consumed in regular, moderate amounts – to help prevent heart disease. But, do we really need to drink wine (alcohol) to be heart healthy?
In truth, a powerful natural phenol called anthocyanidin – in the seeds of red wine grapes – is responsible for much of the beneficial effect. Keep in mind, those ‘seedless’ grapes are a modern invention and do not offer the same kind of health benefits.
Grapes, botanically known as Vitis vinafera, have been utilized for both dietary and medical purposes for over 6,000 years. Ancient Egyptians prized them as a delicacy; Biblical references to grapes – and red wine – abound. In European folk medicine, grapes were taken as remedies for life-threatening diseases of the time, including cholera and smallpox.
The healing power of grape seed extract
Research has shown that many of the therapeutic constituents of grapes are concentrated in the seeds, with 100 grams containing 3,5000 milligrams of proanthocyanidin, a plant pigment and antioxidant flavonoid. The seeds are ground up to yield grape seed extracts, which also contain beneficial fatty acids, tocopherols – a natural form of vitamin E — and tannins, which have astringent properties.
Other flavonoids, including epicatechin, and epigallocatechin – the same healthful substances found in green tea – also contribute to grape seed extract’s antioxidant and detoxifying effects. Once again – we see that plant foods have the ability to make us whole and healthy.
How does grape seed extract help people with heart disease?
Grape seed extract’s potent antioxidant properties – even more effective than those of vitamin E and vitamin C – help prevent the formulation of unhealthful plaque in arteries. In addition, grape seed extract improves capillary resistance, promotes relaxation of the circulatory system, and bonds with collagen to create more flexibility and elasticity in blood vessels and capillaries.
According to University of Maryland Medical Center, grape seed extract helps to treat both venous insufficiency and edema. Generally speaking, if you suffer from hypertension or any other heart-related issues, you’ll need to consume many more antioxidants – in all its forms.
In addition, Medical News Today reports that grape seed extract can prevent age-related cognitive decline, speed wound healing, decrease swelling and inflammation after injuries or surgeries plus strengthen bones.
A proven way to avoid excessive plaque buildup
In an animal study published in 2005 in Thrombosis Research, scientists set out to identify the constituent responsible for red wine’s association with the reduced risk of thrombosis. They found out that both intravenous and oral administration of proanthocyanidins significantly reduced thrombus formation, and speculated that the flavonoid has an inhibitory effect on platelets.
Medical News Today cites a study in which volunteers were given either placebo, 200 and 400- milligram dosages of grape seed extract for 12 weeks. Levels of oxidatively modified-LDL levels – considered a possible marker for coronary artery disease – significantly reduced in both groups as compared to the placebo group.
Can grape seed extract help to prevent cancer?
A ringing endorsement of grape seed extract’s chemoprotective powers came in 2007, with the publication of a scholarly review in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. The authors examined clinical, animal and test tube studies in order to outline the mechanisms by which grape seed extracts deter skin cancer. But the researchers didn’t stop there; they went on to state that grape seed extracts not only prevent skin cancer, but can reduce its severity if it occurs.
Citing numerous animal studies, the authors reported that dietary supplementation of anthocyanidin-rich grape seed extract is associated with a decrease in ultraviolet B-induced skin tumors, along with a reduction in the frequency in which papillomas – pre-cancerous growths – turn cancerous.
The authors credited grape seed extracts with alleviating oxidative stress – a factor that contributes to the development of cancer and with limiting the activation of kinases and signaling pathways in cancer cells. Noting the connection between compromised immune systems and skin cancer, the authors reported that grape seed extracts protect the immune system by combating destructive alterations in immunoregulatory cytokines.
What is the usual dosage of grape seed extract?
Dosages of 150 to 300 milligrams of grape seed extract, standardized to contain 40 to 80 percent proanthocyanidins, have been used in studies. Of course, you should consult a trusted medical health professional before using grape seed extract, especially if you have high blood pressure. Grape seed extract can interact with prescription medications, including blood-thinning drugs.
With heart disease and cancer two of the main causes of mortality in the United States, it’s good to know that Mother Nature may have placed a measure of protection from these deadly diseases within the seeds of ordinary red grapes.