'Grape' news for metabolic syndrome

Grapes may protect against metabolic syndrome-related organ damage, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Health System.

Those portly Roman emperors whose slave girls fed them grapes one by one as they lounged in their togas might have been onto something. New research suggests that eating more grapes may help protect the organs of people with metabolic syndrome. The research does not mention whether the fruit's potency is higher if served by half-naked employees.

Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of risk factors that often occur together, raising a person's chances for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These factors include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and low HDL (the good cholesterol). As more Americans grow obese, the syndrome is becoming more common. Metabolic syndrome may soon overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System studied the effects of grape consumption among rats who consumed a high-fat, American style diet. The research was noted on sciencedaily.com. The rodents were fed a mixture of red, green and black grapes reduced to a freeze-dried powder for 90 days.

Specifically, the results showed that three months of a grape-enriched diet significantly reduced inflammatory markers throughout the body, but most significantly in the liver and in abdominal fat tissue, according to a University of Michigan release. Consuming grapes also reduced liver, kidney and abdominal fat weight, compared with those consuming the control diet. Additionally, grape intake increased markers of antioxidant defense, particularly in the liver and kidneys. Investigators believe it is the polyphenols, natural components in grapes, that drive these beneficial effects.

“Our study suggests that a grape-enriched diet may play a critical role in protecting against metabolic syndrome and the toll it takes on the body and its organs,” said lead investigator Mitchell Seymour, PhD in the release. “Both inflammation and oxidative stress play a role in cardiovascular disease progression and organ dysfunction in Type 2 diabetes. Grape intake impacted both of these components in several tissues which is a very promising finding,” he said.

The research was presented last week at a meeting of the Experimental Biology conference in Boston. This work builds upon the findings of Seymour’s previously published research which suggested that a grape-enriched diet reduced risk factors for heart disease and diabetes in obesity-prone rats.

For the business end of grapes and all things polyphenolic, check out the Nutrition Business Journal / Engredea monograph edition on polyphenols - a tidy, 19-page executive report on 9 ingredients, notable new launches in the dietary supplements, foods and beverages sectors, as well as a forecast for the category through 2014.


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