A study from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center suggests that grapes may be even more powerful than thought for maintaining a healthier heart and curbing heart disease. According to the study, published in the October issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, a blend of red, green and black grape powder mediated blood pressure, reduced inflammation and improved heart function in lab rats prone to hypertension that were fed a salty diet.
"These findings support our theory that something within the grapes themselves has a direct impact on cardiovascular risk, beyond the simple blood pressure-lowering impact that we already know can come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables", says Mitchell Seymour, M.S., who lead the research.
High blood pressure affects millions of Americans and can lead to congestive heart failure. Though the scientists aren't exactly certain which compounds in the grapes are responsible for the health boost found in the grapes, they suspect it's the flavinoids – beneficial compounds shown to improve cellular function.
The effect may be through the antioxidant power of grapes, or through direct impact on cellular function. Flavinoids are found throughout grapes, including the flesh, seeds and skin – all of which were included in the grape powder used for the study.
The U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory is headed by Steven Bolling, M.D., a cardiac surgeon. Dr. Bolling explained "The inevitable downhill sequence to hypertension and heart failure was changed by the addition of grape powder to a high-salt diet," a finding that is encouraging. The researchers say that more studies are needed to further expand the heart healthy benefits of eating fruits and veggies. In the meantime, Dr. Bolling suggests anyone sensitive to salt continue to follow dietary guidelines, including adherence to the DASH diet in combination with five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Incorporating grapes into your daily diet should be an easy addition to help prevent heart disease.
Though the study was sponsored by the California Grape Commission, they did not participate in the research. No further research is planned for now, but given the findings, you may want to incorporate a handful of grapes into your daily diet for a healthier heart. The amount used for the study was nine grapes per day.