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Grape Extract Helps the Heart
Grape Extract Helps the Heart
Two recent clinical trials conducted in Spain suggest that a resveratrol supplement may improve several of the markers that predict cardiovascular disease risk, even in people already being treated with standard drugs to reduce risk.
For years, cholesterol has been the main focus of cardiovascular disease prevention, which is why statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol, are so prevalent. Yet this strategy has not had the effect we would hope for: Heart attacks remain the number one cause of death in the United States. That’s in part due to the fact that lowering cholesterol with statins reduces cardiovascular events by only 40 percent at best. In fact, many people who have heart problems don’t have high cholesterol. In a 2009 study published in the American Heart Journal, 77 percent of patients in the hospital with coronary artery disease had normal cholesterol levels.
So researchers have found other heart disease predictors and looked for ways to address them. The two recent Spanish studies—both very well designed—found the grape extract resveratrol may improve many if not all of these predictors. Resveratrol, which is found in red wine, came into the limelight two decades ago as a possible explanation for the ‘French Paradox’—the unexplained low rates of heart disease among the wine- and cheese-loving French.
Grapes produce resveratrol in response to stress; it alerts cells to danger and mobilizes resources that aid in dealing with injury, toxicity and infection. Resveratrol increases capacity to survive on a cellular level.
These new studies looked at an extract made from grapes that were first exposed to ultraviolet light to trigger resveratrol production. Participants, all of whom were at risk for heart disease and were taking statins, took either this proprietary extract, an extract from untreated grapes, or a placebo.
One of the studies, published in Molecular Nutrition Food Research, followed the 75 participants for 6 months. Those taking the resveratrol-containing product saw their total cholesterol drop by an average of 4.5 percent and other heart disease predictors drop even more: apolipoprotein B (ApoB) dropped an average of 9.8 percent and oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDLox) by 20 percent.
The second clinical trial followed the same 75 patients for 12 months and was published in the American Journal of Cardiology. The participants who took the resveratrol experienced significant decreases in several heart disease predictors, including C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor alpha, plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 and interleukin-6/interleukin-10 ratio.
Over the years scientists have debated whether oral resveratrol is effective in humans. While it appeared useful in animal experiments, results from human experiments had not been as convincing. The results seen in these two studies are significant in that this question has been put to rest at least in regard to the patented product used.
Note: The resveratrol used in both these studies is called Stilvid® and is manufactured by Actafarma SL (Madrid, Spain). It is not yet available in the United States.
Dr. Schor is a graduate of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and now practices in Denver. He served as president of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is now on the board of directors of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is recognized as a Fellow by the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. He serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Naturopathic Medicine. In 2008, he was awarded the Vis Award by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.His writing appears often in Natural Medicine Journal, Naturopathy Digest and Naturopathic Doctor News and Review. For more information visit www.DenverNaturopathic.com.
September 18th, 2012