Grape seed extract is just that, an extract that comes from the seeds of grapes. Recent studies have shown that grape seed extract is high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are important in the fight in the body against free radicals. These free radicals are molecules, or parts of molecules, that are unstable. While they seek to become more stable they cause damage to proteins, cells and DNA inside the body. It is this long-term damage that scientists have linked to the trigger or cause of cancer, peripheral vascular disease and cardiovascular disease, to name just a few. (1)
Antioxidants are key to the prevention of damage done to the cells. Researchers have now found that grape seed extract is high in these antioxidants and are beneficial in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. In fact, in a new study researchers found that over three quarters of leukemia cells in the laboratory setting died within 24 hours of being exposed to grape seed. And, while the leukemia cells died, other healthy cells were left unharmed. (2)
This study was performed at the University of Kentucky and published in Clinical Cancer Research. These results may mean that grape seed extract can be effective in both prevention and treatment of different malignancies. The leukemia cells were exposed to commercially available extract in a variety of amounts. The higher amounts of grape seed extract resulted in more cells which died.
The use of grape seed extract dates back centuries when Egyptians used grapes and ancient Greeks praised the healing powers of grapes, usually in wine. European healers developed an ointment and grape leaves have been used to stop bleeding, inflammation and pain.
There are many other research publications that have reported the health benefits of grape seed extract which includes antioxidant activity and improvement in gastric health. Some of these health benefits are a result of a powerful antioxidant that fight free radicals as well as being 20 times more potent than vitamin C and 50 times more potent than vitamin E. Grape seed extract helps to improve cardiovascular health, promote brain and eye health and is also known for its antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Researchers have found that grape seed extract is one of the few anti-oxidants that penetrates the blood brain barrier. There is also some evidence to show that it helps to prevent formation of plaque in the arteries and helps to prevent both peripheral vascular disease and cardiovascular disease. And because grape seed extract does pass the blood brain barrier it produces improved mental alertness and the prevention of senility.
One of the particular phenols found in grape seed extract is called procyanidin. It was originally discovered in 1936 and thought to protect the body from premature aging. This chemical also bonds with collagen which is the most abundant protein in the body. This bonding promotes cell health and skin elasticity. In essence grape seed extract has some ability to protect the skin from sun damage.
There are some minor side effects to using commercially prepared grape seed extract which includes dizziness, nausea and potentially interfering with laboratory manufactured cholesterol-lowering drugs. Before using grape seed extract as a supplement to your vitamins and minerals you should discuss it with your primary care physician and pharmacists to ensure that it does not interfere with any medications you may already be taking or any other underlying medical condition.
Luckily, you don’t have to drink gallons of wine or grape juice to get the helpful antioxidants in your body. Although, eating the raw and natural product is always more bioavailable you would have to drink too much to get the best benefits. Instead there are extract supplements that are available to give you all of the health properties by simply taking a pill.
(1) Alcohol Research and Health: Alcohol, Oxidative Stress, and Free Radical Damage
(2) American Association for Cancer Research: Grape Seed Extract Kills Laboratory Leukemia Cells, Proving Value of Natural Compounds