Grapes have been used in European folk medicine for centuries to treat a wide variety of health problems. Modern research is finding that grapes and grape seed extracts contain potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may improve overall health and also prove to be an effective tool in fighting obesity and assisting in weight loss.
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Grapes are the fruits that grow on woody vine plants in the genus Vitas. There are over 10,000 varieties grown worldwide that can be crimson, black, dark blue, yellow, green or pink in color. Red and purple grapes contain powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. The University of Maryland Health Center states that the seeds from red and purple grapes contain high levels of vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid and the powerful antioxidant compounds known as oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, or OPC's.
According to an article authored by K.M. Flegal, et al., published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” in January 2010, the rate of obesity is 32.2 percent among adult men and 35.5 percent among adult women in the U.S., with the authors noting that obesity raises your risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. A joint 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and RTI International found that the direct and indirect cost of obesity may reach as high as $147 billion annually.
Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, in a study published in 2004 in “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” discovered that grape seed extract reduced the calorie intake of healthy people by 4 percent over a 24-hour period, which led the scientists to conclude that grape seed extract may reduce energy intake in overweight subjects and play a significant role in body-weight management.
A study in Spain by Gemma Montaguta, et al., published in June 2010 in the “Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” found that grape seed extract improved insulin resistance by making insulin receptors switch back on again and restore more youthful function, a finding that could be helpful in treating weight gain in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
Diego A. Moreno, Ph.D., led research published in 2003 in “Nutrition” that showed bioactive phytochemicals in grape seed extract inhibited the fat-metabolizing enzymes pancreatic lipase and lipoprotein lipase, suggesting the grape seed extract may be useful as a treatment to limit dietary fat absorption and the accumulation of fat in adipose tissue
Grape seed extract is available in drug stores, grocery stores and health food stores in capsule, tablet and liquid form. The University of Maryland Health Center recommends looking for products that state they are standardized to 40 to 80 percent proanthocyanidins, or an OPC content of not less than 95 percent.
Grape seed extracts are not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women, according to the University of Maryland Health Center, which adds that the extracts may also increase bleeding if taken in combination with other blood thinners such as warfarin. The National Institutes of Health reports that some side effects have been noted, including a dry, itchy scalp; dizziness; headache; high blood pressure; hives; indigestion; and nausea.