(NaturalNews) An extract made from components of red grapes that are regularly discarded by vineyards may dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease, above and beyond the well-known health benefits of red wine, researchers have found.
In a study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers from Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, produced an extract called Grape Antioxidant Dietary Fiber (GADF) from the seeds and skin of red grapes. For 16 weeks, they added the GADF extract to the meals of 34 non-smoking adults.
By the end of the study, the blood pressure of participants who had taken the GADF extract had gone down by as much as 5 percent, while their total cholesterol levels had decreased by up to 14 percent. Levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol had also decreased significantly. The GADF extract also appeared to improve participants' lipid profile, which is a measure of heart disease risk based on a variety of cardiovascular tests.
Among the 13 participants with high cholesterol, the cholesterol reductions were even more striking. High cholesterol patients who took GADF extract experienced a 14.2 pc reduction in total cholesterol and an 11.6 pc decrease in LDL levels.
These cardiovascular benefits were not seen in nine control participants, whose diet was not supplemented with GADF extract.
"GADF showed significant reducing effects in lipid profile and blood pressure," researcher Jara Perez Jimenez said. "The effects appear to be higher than the ones caused by other dietary fibers, such as oat fiber or psyllium, probably due to the combined effect of dietary fiber and antioxidants."
Most heart health supplements are high in either antioxidants or fiber, both of which are known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. GADF extract, however, contains high levels of both. A single 7.5 gram supplement taken daily, Perez Jimenez said, could increase the average dietary fiber intake of the Western diet 5 to 10 grams over its current average of 20 grams per day.
"Further research on the relative contributions of fibers and flavonoids to prevent cardiovascular disease is needed," Perez Jimenez said.
Red grapes have long been praised as a heart superfood, largely due to their high content of the antioxidant chemical resveratrol. Studies have linked resveratrol to increased life span, decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, and reductions in levels of inflammation and blood sugar. However, resveratrol alone has never been enough to explain the health benefits of diets that include significant quantities of red wine, such as the Mediterranean diet.
The so-called Mediterranean diet is high in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables and fish, and monounsaturated fats. It contains low to moderate levels of alcohol - particularly red wine - and low levels of red meat, poultry, dairy products and saturated fat. Numerous studies have shown that people who regularly eat a Mediterranean diet tend to live longer and have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who eat a Western diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in meat, dairy and saturated fat.
The researchers in the Nutrition study have claimed that a GADF supplement could be successfully used to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels in heart patients. In those who already eat a Mediterranean diet, they said, it could reduce the risk of heart attacks a further 50 percent.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers in the Western world, ranking higher than cancer in the United States. Heart disease alone - not even counting other forms of cardiovascular disease - is responsible for 30 percent of deaths in the United States.
The major causes of cardiovascular disease are insufficient exercise and poor diet, but factors such as air pollution or tobacco smoke can also play a role.