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Grapes Can Slow Aging Process, Research Reveals

Bunches of grapes
Grapes may slow progression of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

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Recent research reveals that the fruit of the vine lowered blood pressure, improved heart function and reduced risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a condition affecting an estimated 50 million Americans that is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. A nutritional diet and companionship at home can help too.

Q. It’s a challenge to try to encourage m elderly dad to eat right. What are some foods that have been shown to have real value for older adults?

Many aging Americans such as your dad face a downhill slide of high blood pressure and insulin resistance leading to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Grapes can apparently slow that progression, according to scientists at the University of Michigan Health System.

Phytochemicals, sometimes called phytonutrient, are naturally occurring antioxidants that grapes contain. Polyphenols, also often mentioned as health enhancers in grapes, are an antioxidant phytochemical that tends to prevent or neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals.

Findings from the study show encouraging results of a grape-enriched diet that will help prevent risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a condition affecting an estimated 50 million Americans and often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Researchers said the study also demonstrates that a grape-enriched diet can have broad effects on the development of heart disease. "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," said Steven Bolling, M.D., heart surgeon at the U-M Cardiovascular Center and head of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory.

There is no well-accepted way to diagnose metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of characteristics: excess belly fat (for men, a waist measuring 40 inches or more; for women, a waist measuring 35 inches or more), high triglycerides that can lead to plaque build-up in the artery walls, high blood pressure; reduced glucose tolerance and elevated c-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the body.

Those with metabolic syndrome are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. But the U-M study suggests that it may be possible that grape consumption can change the downhill sequence that leads to heart disease by prolonging the time between when symptoms begin to occur and a time of diagnosis.

As promising as the research is, grapes aren’t magic bullets in the fight for better health. Bolling said that people who want to lower their blood pressure, reduce their risk of diabetes or help their weakened hearts retain as much pumping power as possible should follow some tried-and-true advice to eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, achieve a desirable weight and increase physical activity.

Perhaps your dad also could benefit from assistance at home. Companionship and meal preparation are skills that Home Instead CAREGiversSM could provide your father to keep him eating right every day. Check out for more resources.

For more information on the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, please visit

Last revised: October 11, 2011

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