Flavonoids give grape juice, red wine a protective punch
Studies show that a daily glass or two of red wine may lower the risk of heart disease. (Fotolia / December 18, 2013)
Studies show that a daily glass or two of red wine may lower the risk of heart disease. While alcohol content may be partially responsible for wine's ability to relax blood vessels and increase levels of "good" (HDL) cholesterol, the hearty concentration of flavonoid compounds, such as anthocyanin, catechins and resveratrol, play their own role in heart health by boosting antioxidants.
It comes as no surprise that purple grape juice -- essentially unfermented red wine -- boasts flavonoid compounds, as well.
Grape flavonoids seem to have similar protective effects in juice as they have in wine. Studies show that these compounds help prevent the oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol that leads to plaque formation and build-up inside artery walls.
According to a study in the journal Circulation, when 15 patients with cardiovascular disease were given a glass of grape juice each day for two weeks, their LDL oxidation was significantly reduced and blood flowed more freely through the arteries. And according to preliminary research in a 2007 Cardiovascular Research study, grape juice stimulated the production of nitric acid in cells lining the arteries, which allows for improved blood flow.
The flavonoid content in grape juice was shown to be similar to that of red wine, and, in addition, a study in the Journal of Biomedical Biotechnology found that one member of the flavonoid family in particular -- anthocyanins -- were better absorbed from grape juice than from red wine. The researchers believe the higher natural sugar content of grape juice may aid absorption.
The absence of alcohol may boost the amount of time these antioxidant compounds stay in the body, according to findings reported in the January 2000 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. When volunteers were given red wine and then a dealcoholized version of the same red wine, catechin flavonoids remained in the blood more than four hours in the volunteers who drank the nonalcoholic wine, but just over three hours in those who drank the wine with alcohol.
Red wine comes out on top, however, when it comes to resveratrol, which has been linked with preventing heart disease and cancer in preliminary studies. Resveratrol is extracted from the skins of the grapes during the fermentation phase of winemaking, which doesn't occur in grape juice.
ENJOY IN MODERATION
Both red wine and grape juice can, in moderation, be a healthy addition to a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods. Treat yourself to no more than one glass of wine a day for women and two for men. Or, enjoy a four-ounce glass of grape juice a day -- be sure to scan labels for 100 percent juices with no added sugars.
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. http://www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)
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