Grapes' heart health benefits, research conflicting

Researchers credit red wine with helping fight heart disease, but the main ingredient in wine, grapes, may also have some heart-healthy benefits. Antioxidants housed in the skin of red grapes are the subject of many studies, but Dr. Jeffrey Mulhearn, cardiologist at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital and Cardiovascular Specialists, said the results are conflicting.

Resveratrol is one of the antioxidants researchers are interested in and a Harvard Medical School study found some positive results of it on mice. The 2006 study focused on obese mice and discovered resveratrol helped reverse the effects of high-calorie diet. Not all of the studies on this particular antioxidant have been positive. In fact, an Oregon State University research center finds "no convincing evidence" that the antioxidant can prevent heart disease.

"Several large studies have been done with kind of conflicting results," explained Dr. Mulhearn.

He suggested alcohol in red wine could even play a role in heart health. For grapes, the antioxidants are the main benefit, but Dr. Mulhearn pointed out supplements will probably not give the same results.

"I wouldn't recommend people go out and buy these antioxidant vitamins that you see over the counter. Those really haven't shown any benefit," said Dr. Mulhearn.

Grapes may also help with sun protection. A University of Barcelona study found flavonoids in the fruit can reduce cell damage from ultraviolet exposure, but suggested ingesting grapes will not replace sunscreen.

"I think the jury's still out. I don't think there's much harm in eating red grapes," said Dr. Mulhearn.

He recommends one to two glasses of red wine per day and says the benefits include promoting good cholesterol and thinning of the blood which could help prevent clots.

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