Many medical researchers are finally coming around to accepting the truth of the ancient maxim that food can be your medicine.
As a result, studies are proving that the ancients knew their stuff when it came to some foods’ healing benefits. One of these foods that researchers are now paying special attention to is the grape.
According to researcher John Pezzuto, Ph.D., who has studied the bioactive substances in grapes at Western New England University, the epigenetic effects – or effects on how genes behave – of eating grapes helps the body fight off the negative, oxidative damage linked to free radicals.
“If you change the level of antioxidant gene expression, as we observed with grapes added to the diet,” says Dr. Pezzuto, “the result is a catalytic response that can make a real difference (in health and longevity).”
For example, the research shows that eating grapes can help your body defend against a host of health problems.
Protects the Liver Against Disease
Dr. Pezzuto’s laboratory tests have found that grapes can help protect against fatty liver. One of the most important liver-protecting effects shown in Dr. Pezzuto’s research was the decrease in lipid accumulation in the liver – an accumulation that is often a chief symptom of fatty liver disease.
This is big news since fatty liver is a condition that affects one quarter of the U.S. population. While fatty liver can result from the excessive consumption of alcohol, being obese and eating a high calorie diet, it can also happen in people suffering from heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes.1
Grapes are Like Edible Sunscreen
One of the most visible benefits of eating grapes is its added protection against sun damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light.
According to research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, eating two cups a day of grapes can help limit photo-damage from sun exposure. In these tests, scientists tested the response of people’s skin cells to UV light before and after they consumed grapes for two weeks.2
After 14 days of consuming grapes, it took longer and required 78 percent more UV exposure to cause sunburn than it did for test subjects on a grape-free diet. In fact, when the researchers analyzed skin biopsies, they found that eating grapes was linked to less DNA damage and fewer skin cell deaths. Plus, inflammatory markers that can hinder skin function and possibly lead to skin cancer were also reduced in number.
The researchers believe this effect is important. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
“We saw a significant photoprotective effect with grape consumption and we were able to identify molecular pathways by which that benefit occurs – through repair of DNA damage and down-regulation of pro-inflammatory pathways,” says researcher Craig Elmets, M.D. “Grapes may act as an edible sunscreen.” (It’s important to remember that Dr. Elmets also believes you should take additional measures to protect yourself from the sun along with eating grapes.)
Grapes For a Sharper Memory, Stronger Heart and More
Further studies into the benefits of grapes have revealed other impressive effects, including:
- Lowering blood pressure: A review study in the Middle East that analyzed research into how grapes affect blood pressure found that they can have a significant effect in easing hypertension.3 And research at the Boston University School of Medicine indicates that the bioactive chemicals in grapes can improve endothelial function in blood vessels that can, in turn, keep blood pressure down.4
- Protecting the brain from aluminum exposure: Lab tests indicate that the gallic acid in grapes can help defend the brain from damage linked to aluminum that might otherwise lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers report that gallic acid mops up free radicals associated with oxidative stress that results from aluminum entering the brain.5
- Improving overall health by supporting probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract: A study at UCLA shows that grapes help to nourish a wide range of beneficial bacteria including those that lower the risk of leaky gut. These bacteria also improve glucose metabolism.6
The research is no surprise to me. We’ve long known and written about the value of grape seed extract and its powerful antioxidant, immune-boosting health benefits. Eating grapes is even easier than taking a supplement, and more enjoyable too.