What are the health benefits of grapes?

HEALTH
Grapes come in different colors and forms. There are red, green, and purple grapes, seedless grapes, grape jelly, grape jam and grape juice, raisins, currents, and sultanas, not to mention wine.

Up to 8,000 years ago, people first cultivated grape vines in what is now the Middle East.

Today, 72 million tons of grapes are grown each year worldwide, mostly to produce wine. Every year, 7.2 trillion gallons of wine are produced. Grapes are also a popular finger food.

The nutrients in grapes offer a number of possible health benefits. They have been associated with prevention of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and constipation.

Fast facts about grapes

  • The nutrients in grapes may help protect against cancer, eye problems, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions.
  • Resveratrol is a key nutrient in grapes that may offer health benefits.
  • Grapes are a good source of fiber, potassium, and a range of vitamins and other minerals.
  • Grapes are suitable for people with diabetes, as long as they are accounted for in the diet plan.

Benefits

red grapes

Grapes, and especially red grapes, contain resveratrol, a compound that may have various health benefits.

A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a reduced risk of various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

Like other fruits and vegetables, grapes are a good source of fiber and water.

Antioxidants and other nutrients in grapes may make them particularly healthful, although more research is needed to confirm some of their benefits.

Here are some of the ways in which the nutrients in grapes may boost health.

1) Cancer

Grapes contain powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols. These are thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. One of these is resveratrol. It is found in the skins of red grapes.

Laboratory studies have suggested that resveratrol may be able to slow or prevent the growth of tumors in lymph, liver, stomach, breast, colon, skin cancer, and leukemia.

Resveratrol is also present in red wine. Few studies have looked at the association between red wine and cancer risk in humans, but it has been shown that high intakes of alcohol on a consistent basis can increase the risk of cancer. Moderation is key.

A moderate intake of alcohol is defined by The Dietary Guidelines for Americans as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men.

Another natural anti-inflammatory that occurs in grapes is the flavonoid quercetin. Studies have suggested that this, too, may help prevent or slow cancer growth.

2) Heart health

Animal studies have indicated that quercetin and resveratrol may reduce the risk of atherosclerosisand protect against the damage caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.

These studies have mostly used doses of these flavonoids far higher than those usually consumed by humans.

The polyphenols in grapes, such as resveratrol, are thought to have antioxidant, lipid-lowering, and anti-inflammatory actions that may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). They may achieve this by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure and the risk of irregular heart rhythms.

Grapes contain fiber and potassium, both of which support heart health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends increasing potassium intake while decreasing sodium consumption to improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health.

A study of data for 12,267 adults in the United States has shown that the more sodium people consume in relation to their potassium intake, the higher the risk of all-cause mortality.

A high potassium intake has been associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, and preservation of bone mineral density.

3) Blood pressure

Increasing potassium intake may help reduce the negative effects of too much sodium in the diet.

Grapes have a high potassium content. This suggests they can help reduce the effects of sodium in people with high blood pressure.

Fiber is important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, including heart health and blood pressure. Grapes are a good source of fiber.

4) Constipation

Grapes contain water and fiber. These can help people stay hydrated, keep bowel movements regular, and reduce the risk of constipation.

5) Allergies

Because of the anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin, some suggest that consuming grapes may help to alleviate symptoms of allergies, including runny nose, watery eyes, and hives.

However, no human studies have been done to prove this theory.

6) Diabetes

In 2013, results of a study published in the BMJ suggested that certain fruits, but not juices, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults.

During the study, which involved 187,382 participants and lasted 22 years, 6.5 percent of the participants developed diabetes.

However, those who consumed three servings a week of blueberries, grapes, raisins, apples, or pears had a 7-percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those who did not.

The relatively high level of sugar found in grapes leads some people to ask whether they are safe for people with diabetes to eat.

The American Diabetes Association encourages people to consume grapes and other fruits, as long as the carbohydrate amount is counted as part of their meal plan.

The vitamins, minerals, and fiber in grapes make them a healthful way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

7) Diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy

Some studies have indicated that resveratrol may protect against diabetic neuropathy, which affects nerve function. Scientists believe this may be due to the neuroprotective effects of this compound.

Animal studies have indicated that resveratrol may also protect against retinopathy, which can severely affect vision.

Diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy can result when diabetes is poorly controlled.

8) Eye health

Grapes contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help maintain eye health. They are thought to neutralize unstable molecules known as free radicals. In this way, they may reduce oxidative stress and damage to the retina, and help prevent cataracts and other conditions.

Laboratory tests have suggested that resveratrol may protect against various eye problems, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, and others.

However, it remains unclear exactly how it works, and how it might be beneficial to humans.

9) Acne

Results of an in vitro study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy claims that resveratrol could help treat acne, especially if used with benzoyl peroxide as a topical treatment.

10) Other conditions

Other health issues that resveratrol may help with include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • blood glucose control
  • osteoarthritis
  • boosting the immune system

However, some studies have questioned whether resveratrol can benefit humans in these ways. More evidence is needed.