From, Dr. Robert Kowalski
Grape Seed Extract and Heart Health

By now virtually everyone has heard about the French Paradox, and how the French might be protected against heart disease by their consumption of red wine despite diets relatively high in fat. Certainly the alcohol in wine plays an important role, as it raises the levels of the protective HDL. But then that can also be said for other alcoholic beverages.Res-Juventa Reserveratrol Complex

Red wine, however, contains a treasure trove of beneficial plant substances collectively termed flavonoids. They are potent antioxidants, they have anti-inflammatory properties, and they protect the health of the endothelium, the lining of the arteries.

Many authorities believe that the flavonoids are the reason a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been associated with a lessened risk of heart disease. Getting back to the red wine, flavonoids come from the skins and seeds included during fermentation. Skins and seeds are removed when making white wine, removing the source of flavonoids.

Flavonoids are also concentrated in grape seeds and grape seed extracts are widely available as dietary supplements, as are grape skin extracts. But should these products be a part of your heart-healthy regimen? Research has been building to indicate that these supplements are, indeed, beneficial.

The May 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, contained a report showing how grape seed extract, rich in particular flavonoids called proantho-cyanidins, can protect the heart after periods of oxygen deprivation. The investigators worked with rabbits, simulating the effect of such oxygen deprivation and subsequent flow of blood. That scenario occurs when a person might have angina pains or, more dramatically, a heart attack or bypass surgery. Rabbits given grape seed extract were protected against the damage done by free radicals during that experimental period.

Coincidentally, that same issue of AJCN published a study showing how flavonoid intakes associated with regular tea drinking reduce the risk of heart attack. There's no question that we can all benefit from increasing our intakes of flavonoids on a daily basis.

But not everyone drinks tea; most Americans prefer coffee. Many consume no alcohol at all, or prefer other beverages than red wine. Four tablets of grape seed extract (200 mg) provide the equivalent of one four-ounce glass of red wine.

You may remember the ORAC method of measuring antioxidant potency of various foods I reported on previously. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. Foods high on the list include raisins and blueberries. And grape seed extract levels absolutely soar.

Moreover, the proanthocyanidins of grape seed extract work with vitamins C and E to maintain a higher level of those antioxidants in the blood over time.

Certainly the foundation of a heart-healthy diet and life-style rests on a high consumption of fruits and vegetables. Red wine, grape juice and tea provide additional protective flavonoids. Grape seed extract tablets can substantially supplement total intake.

I've gotten a number of letters asking about grape seed extracts. The bottom line is that I believe they can play an important role in protecting our hearts.

The University of Maryland, Medical Center produced a comprehensive report on grape seeds and their benefits. Among other subjects, it addresses research of effects of grape seed extract on the following conditions:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer
  • Other conditions, including circulatory ailments (including varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency), other diseases related to free radical damage (oxidation), including blood sugar regulation and age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder that develops with age and can lead to blindness. The report also addresses the notion that grape seed extract may help improve night vision and photophobia (sensitivity to light) and may be helpful in those with asthma and allergies. The report further mentions several studies supporting the use of proanthocyanidins, such as those found in grape seed, as a supplement for allergic conditions (including airborne and food allergies).

Following are a few quotes from this report:

  • “Seedless varieties [of grapes, red.] were developed to appeal to fickle consumers, but researchers are now discovering that many of the health properties of grapes may actually come from the seeds themselves.”
  • “Among other beneficial effects, the active compounds in grape seed are believed to have antioxidant properties. In fact, a recent study of healthy volunteers found that supplementation with grape seed extract substantially increased levels of antioxidants in the blood. Antioxidants are substances that destroy free radicals -- damaging compounds in the body that alter cell membranes, tamper with DNA (genetic material), and even cause cell death. Free radicals occur naturally in the body, but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, smoke, certain prescription and non-prescription drugs, and air pollution) can also increase the number of these damaging particles. Free radicals are believed to contribute to the aging process as well as the development of a number of health problems, including heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants found in grape seeds can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.”
  • “Today, health care professionals use standardized extracts of grape seed to treat a range of health problems related to free radical damage, including blood sugar regulation problems, heart disease, and cancer. Studies in laboratories, animals, and people lend some support to these uses.”
  • “The Mediterranean diet is comprised of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and moderate, daily wine consumption. In a long-term study of 423 patients who suffered a heart attack, those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 50 - 70% lower risk of recurrent heart disease compared with controls who received no special dietary counseling. Some researchers believe that some of the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet are due to flavonoids found in red wine. (Another well-known theory along these lines is called "The French Paradox." The belief is that drinking wine protects those living in France from developing heart disease at as high a rate as those living in the United States, despite the rich fatty foods they eat.)”

Please click here for the full report:

There are currently ongoing clinical trials for the effects of grape seed extract on blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension and the administration of grape seed extract in preventing breast cancer in postmenopausal women in risk of developing breast cancer.

An article in, January 26, 2010 addresses the follwing subject:
Polyphenol-rich grape powder extract (GPE) attenuates inflammation in human macrophages and in human adipocytes exposed to macrophage-conditioned media

Click for the article: