(NaturalNews) The millions of Americans with heart disease and type 2 diabetes didn't develop these diseases out of the blue. Their disorders are the result of a cascade of problems including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, abdominal fat and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Now University of Michigan (U-M) scientists say they've found something that could help put the brakes on this downward spiral of ill health. It's not a new drug but a delicious and easy lifestyle change: just eat grapes.
The U-M research findings, announced April 26th at the Experimental Biology convention held in Anaheim, California, showed grape consumption lowered blood pressure, improved heart function and reduced other risk factors for heart disease and metabolic syndrome, a condition affecting an estimated 50 million Americans that often leads to type 2 diabetes. The scientists stated the beneficial effects of grapes appear to be due to the rich supply of phytochemicals in the fruit.
The research team tested a mixture of green, red and black grapes on laboratory rats that are prone to being overweight. For three months, one group of the animals ate powdered grapes mixed into their regular feed, which was devised to imitate a typical high-fat, American style diet. A control group of similar rats received no grape powder in their food (which was supplemented so it had the same number of calories as the grape-added diet).
The results of the experiment showed the rats eating the grape-enriched diet had lower blood pressure, better heart function, and reduced indicators of inflammation in the heart and the blood than rats who received no grape powder. What's more, the grape eating rats had lower triglycerides and improved glucose tolerance even though there was no change in their body weight.
"The possible reasoning behind the lessening of metabolic syndrome is that the phytochemicals were active in protecting the heart cells from the damaging effects of metabolic syndrome," Steven Bolling, M.D., heart surgeon at the U-M Cardiovascular Center and head of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, said in a statement to the media.
While this was an animal study, the scientists noted there's good reason to think eating grapes -- along with tried-and-true natural strategies such as eating little saturated fat, keeping weight under control and exercising regularly -- could have broad effects on the development of heart disease and metabolic syndrome in people.
"Reducing these risk factors may delay the onset of diabetes or heart disease, or lessen the severity of the diseases," said E. Mitchell Seymour, Ph.D., lead researcher and manager of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory. "Ultimately it may lessen the health burden of these increasingly common conditions."