Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, claiming an estimated 17 million people each year. In a new study from UCLA, experts report that grapes can help protect heart health by boosting beneficial gut bacteria and lowering cholesterol.
Even among people who rarely eat fruit and vegetables, the study revealed that four weeks of grape consumption produced substantial heart health benefits, reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
“We found that grapes have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria, which is great news, since a healthy gut is critical to good health,” said study lead author Professor Zhaoping Li.
“This study deepens our knowledge and expands the range of health benefits for grapes, even as the study reinforces the heart health benefits of grapes with lowered cholesterol.”
Grapes are considered to be a “superfood” that is rich in powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that can decrease inflammation.
The study was focused on participants between the ages of 21 and 55 who consumed about 40 grapes per day, which is the equivalent of two servings. After several weeks, the individuals had higher levels of gut microbiome diversity.
This community of trillions of bacteria in the gut is widely considered to be the body’s first line of defense against chronic illness and disease. Therefore, diverse gut bacteria are critically important to human health.
After a month of eating grapes on a daily basis, the study participants were found to have nearly eight percent less “bad” cholesterol. In addition, bile acids fell by more than 40 percent. This is significant because malabsorption of bile acid leads to a drop in good cholesterol and a rise in bad cholesterol.
The harmful fats associated with bad cholesterol can cause blocking and clotting of blood clots and cut off blood flow to the heart or brain.
Previous studies have linked improved heart health to grapes in other forms as well, including red wine. According to the researchers, the findings suggest a promising new role for grapes in gut health and reinforce the benefits of grapes on heart health.
“In summary, our results provide novel preliminary information about the effects of grape intake on the gut microbiome, host cholesterol, and BA metabolism. These data will assist in the future design of studies to explore the health benefits of grape consumption.”