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Benefits of Adding Grape Seed Extract to Your Diet

written by: BStone • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 7/2/2011

Should you try grape seed extract? What are the benefits? Why may it be a useful addition to your diet?

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    Why the Seeds?

    Grapes It's no secret that grapes are an excellent addition to a healthy diet as a source of vitamin C and other nutrients, but what about the seeds? Many people use grape seed extract as a nutritional supplement to help prevent and treat health problems, particularly issues with the cardiovascular system such as high blood pressure and poor circulation. The seeds are rich in vitamin E, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.

    Exactly what are the benefits of grape seed extract? What are the beneficial properties of the compounds found in the extract? Who may benefit from supplementing with it?

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    Health Benefits

    The extract of grape seed is believed to be beneficial for the prevention of several diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. It may help with common cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Supplementing with grape seed may be recommended for patients suffering from vision problems, diabetes, edema, nerve damage and chronic venous insufficiency. It may also be useful for simply improving immune strength, slowing the aging process and improving overall well-being because of the high content of protective antioxidants.

    According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, research does support the use of grape seed extract for these conditions although many studies have been conducted on animals, not humans. The most positive scientific evidence shows that it may help with edema and chronic venous insufficiency. One study of breast cancer patients showed that taking 600 mg a day helped to reduce swelling, or edema, that resulted from breast cancer surgery. Grape seed extract has also reduced swelling due to sports injuries in human studies. Several studies have shown that the compounds in grape seed are effective for reducing chronic venous insufficiency symptoms — pools of blood in the legs which cause pain, swelling, fatigue and visible veins.

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    Flavonoids

    Grape seed is a rich source of flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. According to the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University a diet that is high in foods that are good sources of flavonoids has been shown in research to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

    One of the most important flavonoid antioxidant compounds found in both grape seed and grapes is oligomeric proanthocyanidin or OPC. Antioxidants protect cells from the damage of free radicals. OPCs are known to be extremely powerful antioxidants and they may help to lower high blood pressure, slow skin aging and even help to prevent cancer. While the potential benefits of these compounds, and therefore grape seed extract, are great, it is important to keep in mind that scientific evidence is limited.

    These antioxidants can help to protect blood vessels from damage, which can help with hypertension and can protect the body from heart disease. There is no research as of yet to prove that taking grape seed will lower blood pressure.

    Studies in test tubes have found that grape seed extract can potentially prevent the growth of cancer cells from breast, stomach, colon, prostate and lung cancer. According to research done by the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, taking grape seed extract in conjunction with chemotherapy agents may be a powerful tool for treating breast cancer. If taking chemo drugs, always discuss the use of grape seed or any other natural supplement with your doctor before use.

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    Gallic Acid

    Gallic acid is a phytochemical found in grape seeds, grapes, strawberries, bananas, apples, tea and hops. It seems to have anti-fungal, anti-viral and antioxidant properties. According to a study conducted by the University of Colorado Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences involving mice, gallic acid can help to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. Gallic acid is considered to be one of the more active compounds in grape seed extract.

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    Who Should Take Grape Seed?

    Rich in potent antioxidants, almost anyone can benefit from grape seed extract when taken as a nutritional supplement to help prevent disease, boost immune health and slow the aging process. For those who are at a higher risk for heart disease, cancer and age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, supplementing may be even more important. If you are considering adding grape seed extract to your diet because of the health benefits be sure to talk to your doctor if you are taking any medication or if you already have a medical condition.

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    Safe Use and Proper Dosage

    As a nutritional supplement the extract is available in liquid, capsule or tablet form. It is not recommended for children. Adults can take from 25 to 150 mg, one to three times daily to boost antioxidant activity. Be sure to purchase a high-quality extract that is standardized to 40 to 80 percent proanthocyanidins or no less then a 95 percent OPC content. For treating certain conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency your doctor may suggest higher doses.

    Grape seed extract is considered to be safe when taken for up to three months at a time. It is not suggested for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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    References

    University of Maryland Medical Center. Grape seed extract. (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/grape-seed-000254.htm).

    National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Grape seed extract. (http://nccam.nih.gov/health/grapeseed/ataglance.htm).

    "Synergistic anti-cancer effects of grape seed extract and conventional cytotoxic agent doxorubicin against human breast carcinoma cells." Breast Cancer Research Treatment, NIH archives. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15039593)

    NIH Public Access. Gallic acid, an active constituent of grape seed extract. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2741017/)

    Linus Pauling Institute. Flavonoids. (http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/flavonoids/)

    photo by Anders Ljungberg/flickr

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