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Grapes & Resveratrol
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Heart disease is the number one killer in this country. Heart disease is associated with a variety of conditions, including obesity, hypertension, smoking, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol levels. High fat diets are also associated with cardiovascular disease.
The "French paradox" refers to the relatively low incidence of heart disease, despite a diet high in saturated fats, in parts of France where red wine consumption is high. One reason for this paradox might be that an ingredient found in the skin of red grapes has a protective effect on the heart. This substance is called resveratrol. Not only is it found in grapes, but it is also found in pine trees, peanuts, and certain plants. Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant and limits oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), which is one of the steps in the process of atherosclerosis. This compound may also reduce the stickiness of platelets, a blood clotting cell found in the body. Studies suggest that high intake of resveratrol can result in reduced cardiovascular disease and lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol. Current research is investigating whether there is an anticancer effect of this phytochemical.
Although supplements are available that contain resveratrol, it's best to get the nutrients we seek from the foods we eat rather than from pills. Resveratrol is present in red wine, red and purple grapes, grape juice, and peanuts. Grapes treated with insecticide have a reduced level of this compound. If you choose to drink wine, do so in moderation. This means no more than 2 glasses a day for a man or 1 glass a day for a woman. Most experts advise against drinking solely for the apparent health benefits of wine. Some medical conditions and medications can be affected by alcohol consumption. Please consult your physician before consuming alcohol, if you have any questions.