Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Power of Grape Seeds

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:

Since ancient Greece, people have used various parts of the grapes for medicinal purposes. And current medical research has shown grape seeds bestow significant antioxidant properties. Grape seed may inhibit cancer growth, reduce heart disease, and ease other disorders caused from oxidation and inflammation.

Wine manufacturers produce grape seed extract from grape seeds. Grape seeds contain vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid, tannins, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and polyphenols, also known as procyanidins, oligomeric procyanidins (OPC), or oligomeric proanthocyanidins. This combination of ingredients makes grape seeds 50 times stronger than Vitamin E and 20 times stronger than Vitamin C.

Some value the procyanidins the most important ingredient in grape seed extract. These compounds are also found in grape juice, grape skins, and wine, but with lower concentrations. Pine bark (or pycnogenol) and green tea also contain procyanidins.

Health Benefits

Researchers have shown the power of antioxidant activity of grape seeds in vitro or in test tubes. Consequently, few trials have examined grape seed extract's effects on diseases or disorders, but research suggests grape seed could treat and prevent the following health problems:

Diabetes

Metabolic syndrome comprises a cluster of health problems including excess belly fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and inflammation. Metabolic syndrome boosts the chance of developing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.

In a 2009 study, 32 Type-2 diabetics with high cardiovascular risk took either a placebo every day or 600 mg of grape seed extract for four weeks. The grape seed extract significantly reduced inflammation and blood sugar levels. Thus, researchers suggest grape seed extract might alleviate problems with diabetes.

Alzheimer's Disease

Grape seed extract may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. According to a mice study published in 2009, scientists discovered grape seed extract eased inflammation and prevented the accumulation and formation of substances in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Antioxidants

Scientists believe antioxidants prevent and control disease by protecting cells against damage from charged oxygen molecules called free radicals. They harm the body, damage DNA, and kill the body’s cells. Free radicals could speed aging, as well as cause several health problems, such as heart disease and cancer.

Healthy volunteers taking grape seed extract substantially boosted their levels of antioxidants in their blood. Antioxidants in grape seed extract may neutralize the free radicals. Thus, grape seed extract would benefit the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, inflammation, blood sugar regulation, and nervous systems.

Inflammation

Despite the French eating large amounts of saturated fat in their diet, they experience much lower rates of heart disease than one would expect with such high saturated fat intake. They call this the French Paradox because the French drinks red wine regularly, and the wines reduce inflammation and boost antioxidants in the body.

The cardiovascular system reaps the most benefits of the wine’s antioxidants. Our blood vessel linings need strong antioxidant support because the arteries carry large concentrations of oxygen, and the blood cells and vessel linings need protection from oxygen damage.

Chronic inflammation in our cardiovascular system can trigger many types of cardiovascular disease, and the body must regulate inflammation especially to reduce atherosclerosis and other conditions.

Eye Health

Grape seed extract can improve eye health. It could combat cataracts, eyestrain, and macular degeneration – a condition when people lose clear vision. For example, people taking 300 mg of grape seed extract daily for 60 days had reduced their eyestrain from prolonged computer use. In small scientific trials, diabetics taking grape seed extract reduced diabetic retinopathy – a disease of the retina caused by high blood sugar levels.

Edema

Grape seed extract could reduce edema quickly. Edema is swelling caused by surgery or injury and is common after breast cancer surgery. In one study, breast cancer patients taking 600 mg of grape seed extract daily for 6 months after surgery experienced less edema and pain than those taking a placebo. In another study, people taking grape seed extract after a sports injury experienced less swelling than participants taking a placebo. Finally, wounds treated with grape seed extract heal faster and scar less than wounds treated with a placebo solution.

Longevity

Some believe the phytonutrients in grapes extend longevity. Procyanidins may protect the body from premature aging. Scientists believe the procyanidins raise vitamin C levels in the cells, and the procyanidins scavenge for toxins, removing the toxins from the organs.

Improve Mental Alertness

Grape seed extract, one of the few antioxidants, could protect nerve and brain cells by passing through the blood-brain barrier. Thus, it could reduce inflammation in the brain.

In one study, participants drinking from one to two cups of Concord grape juice daily boosted their scores on the California Verbal Learning Test. In another study, grape seed extract might treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because it regulates the neurotransmitters in the brain and slows the breakdown of norepinephrine and dopamine.

Skin

People can take grape seed extract for younger looking skin. The procyanidins bond with collagen, the body’s most abundant protein. Collagen comprises an important component of bones, gums, hair, skin, teeth, and body tissues. The bonding supports cell health and improves the skin’s elasticity, making the skin more youthful, similarly to a natural face-lift. Moreover, procyanidins help protect the body from sun damage, which causes premature aging of the skin.

Cancer

The antioxidant and anti-inflammation properties of grapes can protect people against cancer because ingredients in grapes reduce chronic oxidation and chronic inflammation. In laboratory studies, scientists have shown grape seed eliminates free radicals, which damage DNA and spur development of cancer. If oxidation overwhelms the body’s cells, the oxidation damages cell structures, causes chronic inflammation, and boosts cancer risk.

In vitro, or test tubes, grape seed procyanidins reduced tumor numbers and lowered the malignancy of papillomas - a benign tumor that forms a rounded mass on organs’ surfaces.

According to the American Cancer Society, we have little reliable scientific evidence at this time that drinking red wine, eating grapes, or following a grape diet can prevent or treat cancer in people. For instance, researchers had found grape seed extract did not alleviate the hardening of breast tissue in female patients undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Heart and Circulatory System

Antioxidants, found in grape seeds, could protect blood vessels from damage and could reduce high blood pressure. According to researchers at the University of California Davis School of Medicine in 2009, participants with metabolic syndrome taking grape seed extract for four weeks had lowered their systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They lowered their systolic pressure by 12 mm and their diastolic pressure by 9 mm.

In one study, 40 people with high cholesterol took either grape seed extract, chromium, a placebo, or a combination of grape seed extract and chromium for 2 months. Participants taking both the grape seed extract and chromium had lowered their LDL, “bad” cholesterol than either grape seed alone or a placebo. In another study, 24 healthy male smokers aged 50 years or older took either a placebo or 150 mg of grape procyanidin extracts and soy phosphatidalcholine, twice daily for 4 weeks. The participants taking grape seed extract had lowered their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels than those taking placebo.

Grape seed extract could treat poor circulation and chronic venous insufficiency, where the veins have problems moving blood from the legs to the heart. People suffering from chronic venous insufficiency experience blood pooling in the legs and constant pain, swelling, fatigue, and visible veins.

Grape seed extract may do the following to the circulatory system:
  • Improve vascular strength and strengthen blood vessels.
  • Alleviate atherosclerosis
  • Reduce cells from sticking to the blood vessel walls, and platelet cells clump together less.
  • Lower inflammation in the blood
  • Boost glutathione levels in the blood. Glutathione, a body’s enzyme, scavenges for free radicals.

Other health benefits

Grape seed extract may provide the following health benefits:
  • Reduce constipation
  • Alleviate gastrointestinal disorders
  • Reduce the growth of certain bacteria that metabolizes sugar and causes cavities
  • Increase bone density and strength
  • Possesses anti-viral and antibacterial properties
  • Improves liver function

Dosage and Toxic Effects

If you plan to utilize grape seed extract to treat or prevent a medical condition or disease, please consult your physician first. Side effects include dry, itchy scalp, dizziness, headache, high blood pressure, hives, indigestion, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, sore throat, cough, and rash.

People can take grape seed extract by mouth, but it tastes bitter. People should take capsules. Supplements usually supply between 50 mg and 100 mg of grape seed extract.

Currently, we have insufficient research about the long-term use of grape seed extract, and how it affects health or diseases. Furthermore, researchers have not studied how grape seed extract may interact with medicines or other supplements.

If people taking blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder should avoid grape seed extract unless your doctor prescribes it. Procyanidins reduce platelet adhesion and may act as a blood-thinner, increasing clotting time.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking grape seed supplements. Children should not take grape seed extract, but they should snack on whole grapes because grapes are healthy and safe.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Health Benefits of Resveratrol

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:
Scientists classify resveratrol in a class of plant compounds named polyphenols. These compounds possess antioxidant properties that protect the body from cancer and heart disease.

One source of resveratrol comes from grapes and mostly contained in the grapes’ skin. The resveratrol protects the grape from fungi. If wineries ferment grapes into red wine, the resveratrol becomes concentrated in red wine. Wines may supply more resveratrol than grape juices because fermentation converts piceid to resveratrol in the wine. The alcohol may help the body absorb the resveratrol better than other sources.

White wine supplies smaller quantities of resveratrol because wineries ferment the wine without the grape skins, while wineries ferment red wine with the grape skins.

The resveratrol concentration in Muscadine grapes is ambiguous. Some believe Muscadine grapes contain the highest concentration of resveratrol in nature because their extra thick skins protect the seeds while other researchers conclude Muscadine grapes provide little or no resveratrol.

Blueberries, berries, cranberries, cocoa, dark chocolate, and peanuts also supply resveratrol. Table 1 displays the content of resveratrol in several foods and drinks, and the levels of resveratrol can vary greatly.

Table 1. Resveratrol content in selected foods
Food Serving size Total resveratrol
(milligrams)
Peanuts (raw) 1 cup or 146 grams 0.01 – 0.26
Peanuts (boiled) 1 cup or 180 grams 0.32 – 1.28
Peanut butter 1 cup or 258 grams 0.04 – 0.13
Red grapes 1 cup or 160 grams 0.24 – 1.25
Cocoa powder, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate 1 cup or 200 grams 0.07 – 0.46
Beverages
Pinot noir 150 milliliters 0.06 – 0.30
Red grape juice 150 milliliters 0.17 – 1.30
Spanish red wine 150 milliliters 0.29 – 1.89
Spanish rose wine 150 milliliters 0.06 – 0.53
Spanish white wine
150 milliliters
0.01 – 0.27

Resveratrol comprises of two isomers: cis- (Z) and trans- (E). Isomers are molecules comprising the same atoms, but the atoms are arranged as mirror images in three-dimensional space. Many claim the trans-resveratrol possesses the health benefits while cis-resveratrol does not. In Table 1, the total includes both the cis and trans resveratrols, and they usually occur in equal amounts.

The health supplement industry extracts resveratrol from red wine or red grapes or from the roots of Japanese and Chinese knotweed, known as polygonum cuspidatum. Japanese Knotweed, a type of bamboo, is an invasive weed. Many recommend not to plant knotweed in your yard because it quickly spreads and becomes difficult to control.

Gram for gram, peanuts provide about half the resveratrol as red wine and contain between 2.3 and 4.5 micrograms for every gram. On the other hand, sprouted peanuts supply comparable levels of resveratrol as grapes and yield between 11.7 and 25.7 micrograms per gram depending on the peanut cultivar.

Blueberries provide twice as much resveratrol as bilberries, but resveratrol levels vary greatly by region. These fruits possess less than 10% of the resveratrol of grapes. Cooking or heating the berries degrade resveratrol by half. Finally, health supplement industry sells the extract of the mulberry skins as a nutritional supplement.

Researchers also found resveratrol in the eastern white pine, Pinus strobus and the Chinese herb, Gnetum cleistostachyum.

Benefits of Resveratrol

Some researchers believe resveratrol explains the "French Paradox" – the French people have good cardiovascular health despite consuming a poor diet loaded with fats and copiously amounts of wine.

Some researchers, however, concluded the trace levels of resveratrol reached in the blood of French people cannot explain the paradox. They believe the benefits of wine originate from the multiple substances found in wine. For example, wine contains procyanidins that correlate with cardiovascular benefits. Grape seed extract also contains procyanidins.

Researchers mostly studied the effects of resveratrol in test tubes and animals. Thus, the researchers only suggest resveratrol could protect the human body against several diseases.

Anti-aging

Some refer to resveratrol as the “fountain of youth” because it appears to ward off many diseases associated with aging, enhance longevity, and boost the lifespan of human cells. Resveratrol protects the body’s cells from damaging free radicals – charged molecules inside the body that harm and damage healthy cells.

Scientific studies involving rodents indicate resveratrol could counteract the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle. For example, mice consuming a high-calorie diet while taking resveratrol lived longer than mice not given resveratrol.

Even though scientists do not fully understand the chemical mechanisms of resveratrol's impact on extending life, resveratrol appears to mimic several biochemical effects of calorie-restriction diets. For instance, researchers recently have shown resveratrol activates three genes related to longevity. The three genes are SirT1s, Fox0s, and PBEFs. For instance, the SirT1 gene may protect the body against the diseases of aging and the damaging effects of obesity.

Other studies indicate resveratrol improves the functioning of the mitochondria, which help the cells convert nutrients into energy. Resveratrol's effect on human lifespan remains unclear as of 2011, but the evidence shows resveratrol boosts the life of yeast and mice.

Alzheimer's disease

Resveratrol, being unique among antioxidants, can protect the brain and nervous system by crossing the blood-brain barrier. Resveratrol may be effective against neuron dysfunction and cell death, and may, in theory, treat Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases. Resveratrol could protect nerve cells from damage and reduce the buildup of plaque that leads to Alzheimer's. However, researchers have not yet tested this in humans for any disease.

People can gain a mental edge by boosting the blood flow to their brains. UK researchers studied 22 healthy adults and determined resveratrol had increased blood flow to the nervous system. Furthermore, Illinois researchers discovered mice receiving resveratrol had better memory recall and increased mental performance.

Boost Testosterone

As men enter their thirties, their testosterone levels begin declining. According to Korean researchers, mice consuming resveratrol for 28 days had improved their blood concentration of testosterone by more than 50%. Consequently, resveratrol could raise natural testosterone production in men.

Cancer

French researchers indicated resveratrol could slow down the production of cancer cells because it interferes with all three stages of cancer development—initiation, promotion and progression. In some cancer cell cultures, resveratrol triggered apoptosis, which causes the cell to die, and thus kill the cancer cells. Resveratrol slowed the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells in test tubes and could wipe out skin and gastrointestinal tract tumors, where it comes into direct contact. Resveratrol, being similar to other polyphenols, shares similarities to chemotherapy, anticancer drugs, such as etoposide and doxorubicin.

Some researchers, nevertheless, discovered injecting high doses of resveratrol into young mice enhanced tumor growth.

Diabetes

Resveratrol could prevent insulin resistance – a condition where insulin cannot reduce the sugar levels in the blood. Insulin resistance usually leads to diabetes. Researchers experimenting with animals have demonstrated resveratrol can reduce the effects of diabetes.

Heart Disease

Center for Disease Control and Prevention ranked heart disease as the number one cause of death in the United States in 2011. Many know drinking red wine reduces the risk of heart disease. For example, by drinking one to two 5-ounce glasses of wine per day, participants significantly reduced their risk of developing atherosclerosis – a condition where fats deposit and collect in the arteries making them narrower. Atherosclerosis can lead to strokes and heart disease. Finally, wine lowers blood pressure, keeps the heart healthy, and improves the blood vessels' elasticity.

Researchers in Connecticut determined resveratrol conditions the heart, protecting it against cardiac events. Resveratrol helps reduce inflammation and inhibits the oxidation of LDL "bad" cholesterol. Hence, the blood's platelets stick together less and do not clot, thus reducing the chance of a heart attack.

Inflammation

Inflammation is the body's natural response. White blood cells defend the body from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, some people always remain in a chronically inflamed state. Chronic inflammation damages the body and is connected to numerous diseases like heart disease. Researchers showed the resveratrol protects the body from sphingosine kinase and phospholipase D – two molecules known to trigger inflammation.

Protect Eyesight

People consider vision the most important of the five senses, and they will notice the slightest vision loss. Unfortunately, most people experience vision loss as a normal part of aging. Missouri researchers discovered resveratrol could counteract this vision loss because resveratrol can regulate angiogenesis – the forming of new blood vessels. Resveratrol prevents the abnormal growth of blood vessels that could damage eyesight.

Enhance Endurance

Resveratrol produces many benefits similar to exercise. Canadian researchers discovered in a 12-week study on rats that resveratrol supplements boost endurance, increase oxidative metabolism, and enhanced cardiac function. Thus, athletes cold combine endurance training and resveratrol supplements to boost their performance.

Weight Loss

We have little human evidence of resveratrol's effect on metabolism. However, resveratrol mimics a calorie-restricted diet. For example, it protected mice fed a high-calorie diet from obesity-related health problems. Animal studies have shown resveratrol helps overweight mice run farther and live about 20 percent longer.

Dosage and Side Effects

Like other supplements, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate resveratrol. Unfortunately, consumers do not know what they have bought when they purchase a bottle, or whether the supplements work.

Since researchers conducted few studies on resveratrol in humans, doctors cannot substantiate any benefits, and they do not know the long-term effects the supplements can have on the human body. Thus, the experts cannot recommend any specific dosage, and dosages vary from supplement to supplement.

Researchers had not detected any severe side effects even when users had taken resveratrol in large doses. In one small study, healthy volunteers had taken a single dose up to 5 grams of trans-resveratrol, and it caused no serious adverse effects. However, resveratrol may interact with blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), and non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen, increasing bleeding risk.

Supplements vary in purity and can provide anywhere between 50% and 99% resveratrol. Many brands contain an extract of Japanese knotweed, and most supplements supply from 250 to 500 milligrams of resveratrol – much lower than the amounts the researchers used in animal studies. To get the equivalent dosage used in animal studies, people would need to take two grams of resveratrol, or 2,000 milligrams per day.

Some retailers advise women that resveratrol may interfere with oral contraceptives. Moreover, pregnant women or women intending to become pregnant should not use resveratrol because it may harm the human fetus. Finally, children or young adults under eighteen should not take resveratrol because we do not know how resveratrol could affect their developing bodies.