Benefits of Grape Seeds

Grape Seeds
Grape Seeds

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Benefits of Grape Seeds


Background

For centuries, Man has recognized the nutritional and medicinal value of grapes (Vitis vinifera). The Europeans used the sap of grapevines as a remedy for skin and eye diseases. Grape leaves were used traditionally to stop bleeding, inflammation, and hemorrhoid pain. Grapes, in all degrees of ripeness, were a panacea for sore throats, constipation, cancer, cholera, smallpox, nausea, eye infections, skin, kidney and liver diseases.

More recently, researchers discovered that the health benefits of grapes are actually derived from their seeds. The active compounds in grape seeds are believed to have antioxidant properties.  Antioxidants destroy free radicals in the body. Free radicals are harmful in that they attack human cell membranes, damage DNA (genetic material), and  cause cells to die. Free radicals are believed to speed up ageing, increase the risks of heart disease and cancer.  Thus, grape seed is widely heralded due to their antioxidant properties, which many believe can neutralize free radicals, thereby reducing some of the damage the free radicals cause.

Composition of the Grape


Grapes contain Vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid, and compounds called procyanidins (also known as condensed tannins, pycnogenols, and oligomeric proanthocyanidins or OPCs).

Procyanidins are healthful compounds which are highly concentrated in grape seeds. They can be found in lower concentrations in grape juice and wine.

Resveratrol, another healthful compound related to procyanidins, resides mainly on the skin of the grape. Resveratrol is marketed widely as an antioxidant supplement.


Benefits and Applications of Grape Seeds


Flavonoids in red wine were found to benefit the heart. They may deter the oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL potentially hardens the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis.

Some researchers also believe that benefits from the Mediterranean diet stem partially from the flavonoids found in red wine. The Mediterranean diet is made up of moderate daily wine consumption with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and olive oil.  A longitudinal study found that of 423 patients who suffered a heart attack, those who followed a Mediterranean diet had about 50% lower risk of recurrent heart disease compared with a control group  who did not follow a specific diet.

Lending further support to the beneficial impact of flavonoids in red wine is the French Paradox.  Researchers believe that the French, who, despite the fatty food they eat,  have lower rates of heart disease compared with Americans, are protected by the wine that accompany  their meals.


Controversy


There are still some questions that researchers are studying:
a)    are the benefits of moderate wine consumption due to its alcohol or flavonoid content ?
b)    are the benefits only produced by the complex bio-chemical reaction of alcohol and flavonoids within the human system ?
As one may infer, the efficacy of grape seed extracts hinges on the answers to the questions above.

However, several animal studies confirm that antioxidants from grapes offer cardio protection so grape seed extracts and red wine continue to be promoted for heart health.

The concept of drinking wine for good health is not without controversy. The American Heart Association and other organizations do not support the consumption of alcohol for health benefits due to the potential for addiction, impaired driving and other serious ailments including  hypertension, liver disease, breast cancer, and weight gain. As a general rule, one should have no more than two glasses of red wine a day.

Managing Cholesterol Levels


Two separate studies concluded that:

a)  the combination of grape seed extract and chromium was more effective in reducing total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol than either substance alone or placebo .

b) grape seed extract may help prevent cholesterol oxidation, which leads to the formation of "bad" cholesterol  in smokers.

Managing blood pressure


While no clinical study has been performed on humans yet,  animal studies  have shown that grape seed extract substantially reduced blood pressure. This supports the theory that the antioxidants in grape seed protect blood vessels and prevents them for exerting increased pressure on the heart, thus regulating blood pressure.

Cancer Prevention


In the laboratory, grape seed extracts have been found to prevent the growth of breast, stomach, colon, prostate, and lung cancer cells. Grape seed has not been studied in humans in terms of its anti-cancer effects, if there are any. However, the antioxidant properties of grape seed have been proven to be beneficial.

Grape seed extract may prevent damage to human liver cells caused by chemotherapy medications.

As a precaution, always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking grape seed extracts with any chemotherapy drugs.


Pancreatitis


Recently, three patients with chronic pancreatitis suffered less abdominal pain after using grape seed extract when no other medications could improve their condition. Proper research needs to be conducted to determine the effects of grape seed extracts on pancreatitis.


Other Uses:


Following supportive research findings, doctors and nutrition specialists now recommend standardized extracts of grape seed for a variety of health problems associated with free radical damage, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and
age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder that can lead to blindness.  Some health care professionals believe grape seed extract may improve night vision and photophobia as well.

Doctors may also recommend grape seed extract for circulatory ailments (such as  varicose veins),  the treatment for asthma and allergies, based on studies which support the use of proanthocyanidins in grape seed to address allergic conditions , such as airborne and food allergies.

Warning : Always consult your doctor before taking any health supplements, in combination with other supplements or on their own.

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