Consuming grapes may help protect heart health in people with metabolic syndrome, according to research presented this week at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, Calif. Natural components found in grapes, known as polyphenols, are thought to be responsible for these beneficial effects.
The study, led by principal investigator Dr. Maria Luz Fernandez, Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut, recruited individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together – increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or low HDL (the good cholesterol) and increased blood triglycerides – significantly increasing the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is a major public health concern, and is on the rise in the U.S.
(For more, see: Wine consumption a toast to health)
The study data, presented by Jacqueline Barona, a Ph.D. student working with Dr. Fernandez, showed that for each of the study’s subjects, grape consumption resulted in significant decreases in blood pressure, improved blood flow (greater vasodilation), and decreases in a compound associated with inflammation.
“These results suggest that intake of grapes can improve important risk factors associated with heart disease, in a population that is already at higher risk,” said Fernandez. “This further supports the accumulating evidence that grapes can positively influence heart health.”
The study design was a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study, which is considered very powerful, because investigators are comparing the response of each individual to consumption of both the placebo and grapes. Study participants were randomly allocated to consume grapes in the form of a freeze-dried whole grape powder or a placebo, for four weeks. Then, following a 3-week “washout” period where neither grapes nor placebo were consumed, individuals were allocated to the alternate treatment.
The Experimental Biology conference is a multidisciplinary, scientific meeting focused on research and life sciences, covering general fields of study such as anatomy, biochemistry, nutrition, pathology and pharmacology. The conference is comprised of nearly 14,000 scientists and exhibitors.