From Purple Grapes to Red Wine
After studies showed lower rates of heart disease in people who drink one to two glasses of red wine a day, Georgetown University Medical Center decided to try some experiments on purple grape juice. They wanted to see if that beverage offered the same health benefits without the risks associated with drinking alcohol.
Researchers studied platelets — blood cells that clump to form clots — in a solution containing purple grape juice and, for comparison, in a solution that did not contain grape juice (“controls”).
The platelets in purple grape juice clotted about 30% less than did the controls and they released three times more nitric oxide, a chemical that dilates vessels and keeps platelets from sticking together. The effects of nitric oxide help reduce the likelihood that blood clots will block the arteries and cause a heart attack. In addition, the platelets in purple grape juice released 55% less superoxide, a type of oxygen molecule known as a free radical. Because free radicals react with cholesterol, they may be more dangerous to blood vessels.
The researchers also tested the effects of a substance called quercetin, which is one of a group of compounds called flavonoids. These substances are thought to have favorable antioxidant properties; that is, they fight free radicals. The platelets in quercetin were less likely to be activated to form blood clots. This flavonoid, therefore, inhibited platelet clotting, which may explain the beneficial effect of purple grape products in heart disease. Incidentally, the grapes used to make red wine and purple grape juice are often different from the red and white grapes at the grocery stores and may not have the same benefits, the investigators pointed out.
Source: American Heart Association
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