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Grape Seed Extract for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Should You Try It?

Rheumatoid arthritis and grape seed extract

When it comes to treating rheumatoid arthritis, the number of alternative, complementary options is limited. Although it's been suggested that what you eat matters, besides omega-3 fatty acids, acupuncture, and curcumin there appears to be few other possibilities. However, researchers have been attempting to add to this short list, and among the potential candidates is grape seed extract, which has been the subject of several recent studies.

What is grape seed extract?

Much has been written about the health benefits of grapes and red wine, especially because they are a good source of antioxidants and one certain phytonutrient, resveratrol, which has been studied for its effect on heart disease, aging, and other health issues. But grape seeds specifically appear to have their own benefits.

Grape seeds have high concentrations of vitamin E, linoleic acid, flavonoids, and oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs), which are potent antioxidants credited with helping chronic venous insufficiency (accumulation of blood pools in the legs). Concentrations of all these elements are greater in the seeds of grapes than in the skin or pulp.

Studies of grape seed extract and rheumatoid arthritis

The literature on rheumatoid arthritis and grape seed extract may just be gathering steam. A new study published in PLoS ONE explored the effect of grape seed proanthocyanid extract on bone damage and chronic inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Investigators examined the impact of grape seed extract both on cells from patients with rheumatoid arthritis and in mice with the disease. They discovered that grape seed extract:

  • Relieved symptoms associated with cartilage and bone damage in the mice
  • Stopped osteoclastogenesis and provided antioxidant benefits in the cells from patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoclastogenesis is a process by which bone cells (osteoclasts) break down and destroy bone

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Thus the bottom line of this study was that grape seed extract “may be beneficial for the treatment of inflammation-associated bone destruction.”

In a previous study, many of the same investigators set out to determine how and why grape seed extract had anti-inflammatory properties and whether it could be helpful in reducing symptoms of autoimmune arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. They found that grape seed extract reduced the levels of certain key arthritis related factors in human cells and in mice.

Therefore, the investigators concluded that grape seed extract “may serve as a possible novel therapeutic agent for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.”

The bottom line

So should you take grape seed extract for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms? Although it’s much too early for anyone to recommend grape seed extract for rheumatoid arthritis, people do take this supplement for a number of other conditions, and it is considered a safe nutrient.

When shopping for grape seed extract, look for products that have an OPC content of at least 95 percent or that are standardized to 40 to 80 percent proanthocyanidins. Before anyone takes grape seed extract for rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions, they should consult their healthcare provider.

Park MK et al. Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract (GSPE) differentially regulates Foxp3(+) regulatory and IL-17(+) pathogenic T cell in autoimmune arthritis. Immunology Letters 2011 Mar 30; 135(1-2): 50-58
Park JS et al. Grape-seed proanthocyanidin extract as suppressors of bone destruction in inflammatory autoimmune arthritis. PLoS One 2012; 7(12): e51377
University of Maryland Medical Center

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According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, grape seed extract may have blood-thinning properties, which could increase the risk of bleeding if taken with blood thinning medications. The most likely side effects of grape seed extract include headache, dizziness, nausea and a dry, itchy scalp. As Deborah mentioned, what you eat matters. Allergic responses to potato and other nightshade foods as well as dairy products are often a causal factor in RA. Avoidance of these foods should be tried first, I feel. Elimination diets are often the solution. Totally eliminate one suspected food source for 4 weeks and see how the inflammations react. Re-introducing the suspected food item might cause a flare up of symptoms. In that case you have found one of the suspected foods. Try it again with another food and see if there is a reaction, and so on!