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Complementary and alternative medicine has been gaining immense popularity for improving the quality of life and average life expectancy of an individual. These medications are rich in natural plant pigments and compounds that help fight the wear and tear of the body caused by age. One natural medicine gaining rapid popularity is grape seed extract.
Grape seeds (Vitis vinifera) have proven amazing in various animal studies and human research. Grape seed oil is an aromatic essential oil with immense therapeutic potential. The grape seed extract is available in the form of tablets and capsules for its various health benefits.
Before you incorporate grape seed extract into your dietary habits, read on to know all about its benefits, side effects, contraindications, and recommended dosage.
Active Ingredient in Grape Seeds
The grape seed extract is actually a dietary supplement obtained from the bitter-tasting seeds of the red wine grapes. Grape seeds are extremely popular for their antioxidant content.
The major active ingredient responsible for the antioxidant potential of grape seeds is proanthocyanidins. Other plant antioxidants such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, and polyphenols can also be found.
Grape seed extract contains monomers, oligomers, and polymers of proanthocyanidins. These active compounds belong to the class of polyphenols. We initially knew them as the plant pigments that give the red color to the red wine grapes.
But research today claims their immense antioxidant and protective benefits for the cells of the heart, muscles, brain, and liver. These polyphenols are present abundantly in fruits and vegetables such as berries, grapes, and red cabbage.
Health Benefits of Taking Grape Seed Extract
Various animal studies prove significant benefits of the grape seed proanthocyanidin extract for a better quality of life. The following are some major health benefits of using grape seed extract supplementation in the advised dosage:
Grape Seed Proanthocyanidin Extract (GPSE) contains extraordinary Cardioprotective Properties
These antioxidant effects are responsible for its strong cardioprotective potential. GPSE supplementation in humans reduced the production of reactive oxygen intermediates in the cardiac cells and improved ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia. Specific screening and confirmatory tests also demonstrated the effects of GPSE dietary supplements in reducing the pro-apoptotic signaling in the cardiac cells.
GSPE supplements also reduced the biomarkers of cardiac cell damage in the serum, especially creatine kinase (CK), which demonstrates a reduction in DNA and histopathological damage in the heart. GPSE supplementation has also been proved beneficial against atherosclerosis in animal studies.
In a hamster model, GPSE supplementation significantly reduced the number of foam cells in the arterioles and capillaries, the primary biomarkers of atherosclerotic damage in animals. In human studies, however, the dietary supplement grape seed extract has been shown to help with hypercholesterolemia by reducing the level of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Since taking grape seed extract supplements also reduce the systolic and diastolic blood pressures and heart rate, elderly and middle-aged individuals can rely on GPSE supplementation to fight the risk of coronary heart disease.
Grape Seed Extract can be Beneficial for Blood Pressure
12 qualified articles with 16 controlled clinical trials demonstrated the effect of GSE on blood pressure. All of these studies suggest that grape seed extract can help control high blood pressure with its potent antioxidant and protective properties for blood vessels.
The blood pressure-lowering impact of this novel grape seed supplement is more prominent in younger individuals with high cardiovascular risk, such as obese patients and those with documented metabolic syndrome.
A randomized controlled trial with 29 adults showed a 5.6 % reduction in the systolic blood pressure and a 4.7 % reduction in the diastolic blood pressure on taking 100-800 mg of GPSE for 8 weeks.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases, especially in those with a family history and overweight. The bioactive compounds in the grape seed extract help fight the oxidative damage to the blood vessels and the resultant narrowing and finally prevent the development of obesity syndrome, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has been supporting research on antioxidants, especially polyphenols present in plants, benefiting patients with blood clotting, blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular issues, and oxidative stress.
GSE can be Effective against Chronic Venous Insufficiency Diseases
Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition characterized by dilated veins unable to pump the blood back to the heart, especially from the dependent, peripheral parts of the body. This can be caused by genetic factors, an occupation where a person stands for long hours, or due to bacterial and autoimmune attacks on the valves of the veins.
Venous insufficiency can eventually lead to generalized swelling and edema in the legs. The tissue may become ischemic due to insufficient delivery and exchange of nutrients, wastes, and respiratory gases. The skin may break, and ulcers may develop. Superimposing a bacterial infection will eventually call for amputation.
This dangerous picture of a series of events starts at the dilated, insufficient veins, which can be stopped right there for quite a while. Flavonoids such as proanthocyanins and gallic acid have been shown to improve the contractility of large veins in the extremities. Grape seed extract with high antioxidant capacity due to the flavonoid content helps slow down the varicose vein (dilated veins) pathophysiology and progression.
The same compounds have also proved beneficial in improving venous tone and helping the veins pump the blood back to the heart. The effects of these compounds in improving the blood flow in the blood vessels and reducing the blood clot formation also prove highly beneficial in this condition.
If the condition has progressed to body edema and swelling, grape seed extract can help there, too, since they have been shown to reduce edema. A study involving women with sedentary lifestyles showed that taking grape seed extract supplementations significantly reduces leg swelling in these subjects.
Neuroprotective Potential of Grape Seed Extracts
The antioxidant potential of the grape seed extract has a strong neuroprotective role. In healthy, older adults, GPSE supplementation for 12 weeks has shown beneficial effects on their memory, learning, language, cognition, and neuropsychological status.
Alzheimer’s disease is a condition characterized by the formation of protein accumulations in the brain, called beta-amyloid plaques. These are formed due to various factors, on top of which is the free radical injury. If there is any genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in old age, grape seed extract has the ability to fight it down.
The beta-amyloid peptides that form and accumulate also have the ability to form fibrils, which is why the disease continuously progresses and worsens with time. The most beneficial bioactive compound in the grape seeds (vitis vinifera) is gallic acid in this case, which has a strong fibril-inhibitory activity.
Several studies demonstrate that taking grape seed extract supplements not only improves the management and quality of life of an Alzheimer’s patient but also helps treat the disease from the root cause.
The anti-apoptotic role of flavonoids and phenolic compounds in grapes (Vitis vinifera) has also been well-documented. Since apoptosis due to autoimmune and inflammatory mediators and reactive oxygen species is also a major contributory factor in neurodegenerative diseases, dosing with grape seed extract daily can be very beneficial.
Grape Seed Extract promotes Wound Healing and Improve Skin Appearance
Grape seed extract increases the cell turnover in the skin and the rate of collagen biosynthesis. Together, these effects improve the elasticity and appearance of the skin, making it look younger and plumper.
In addition to improving the skin tone, grape seed proanthocyanidin extract has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. By fighting against the free radical damage and inflammation, this novel seed extract can help fight chronic skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.
It has immense antimicrobial properties for the skin as well. The antioxidant potential that fights reactive oxygen species also protects against the UVA and UVB rays of the sun. These rays are also responsible for early aging and various types of skin cancers.
The ability of grape seed extract to promote collagen biosynthesis is also beneficial in wound healing, especially after minor surgeries. In a study, 35 adults used a placebo or a GSE topical cream after minor surgery. Those who used a placebo took 14 days to recover fully. On the other hand, those who applied the GSE cream took only 8 days to recover fully. This proves sufficiently well that GSE supplements aid wound healing.
The antioxidant and wound healing potential of the grape seed extract have been proven superior to ascorbic acid and vitamin E. High levels of proanthocyanins in these supplements trigger the production and release of growth factors that support rapid wound healing.
Grape Seed Extract May Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Grape seed proanthocyanidins are present in the grape skin, and the grape seeds have strong antioxidant activity, which helps fight oxidative stress, as discussed before. Oxidative stress and free radical damage are the top-tier culprits in the development of cancer, including both benign and malignant tumors.
These mechanisms are mainly involved in the anticancer and chemopreventive potential of the grape seed extract. Another cancer-protective role of these seed extracts involves the reduction of the various types of adhesion molecules that facilitate the growth and metastasis of cancer.
For patients with a diagnosed cancer and who are taking chemotherapy, grape seed extract can potentiate the effects of 5-fluorouracil as a chemotherapeutic anticancer drug. On top of that, GSE can itself act as a potent anticancer drug. In a study involving colorectal cancer patients, GSE causes cell growth inhibition by inducing apoptosis in the colorectal cancer cells.
The same results have been obtained for tongue squamous cell carcinoma. GSE hence can make a novel therapeutic intervention against carcinogenesis. In addition to helping with the chemotherapy and acting as an anticancer agent, GSE can also help ameliorate the toxic side effects of chemotherapy.
Grape Seed Extract May Protect your Liver
A grape seed extract has shown significant liver-protective effects compared with a parallel dosage of ascorbic acid. Patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease show significant improvement in the functioning of the liver with the consumption of grape seed extract for almost 3 months.
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) enzymes are the biomarkers of liver damage. These are part of the long list of enzymes of the liver cells that take part in the metabolism and conversion of various important amino acids in the body.
When the liver cells encounter injury or damage, such as in the fatty liver disease, these enzymes set free and enter the bloodstream. Increased levels of ALTs and some other enzymes hence indicate liver damage.
Supplementation with grape seed extract for 3 months reduced the serum levels of alanine aminotransferases (ALT) and aspartate and aminotransferases (AST). The status of fatty liver disease also improves due to the regulatory role of the catechins in the GSE for the release of inflammatory mediators.
Compared with the group of patients who took 2 grams of vitamin C, GSE showed an almost 46 % reduction in the serum ALT levels. Also, since cancer chemotherapy significantly causes liver damage, GSE supplementation along with cancer treatment can alleviate the liver-damaging side effects of chemotherapy.
Grape Seed Extract can Inhibit Bacterial and Fungal Growth
MRSA or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is a deadly strain of the bacterium called staph. Aureus. MRSA is a strain resistant to the typical antibacterial drugs, including penicillin. But these bacteria cause serious skin infections with sores, boils, and abscesses.
Similarly, E. coli and Campylobacter jejuni are transmissible bacterial infections affecting the urinary and the digestive system, respectively. e. coli produces life-threatening toxins in the body that can cause severe diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome. C. jejuni has a reputation for causing a specific type of neurological disorder called the Guillain-Barre syndrome.
A grape seed extract has been shown to inhibit the motility and hence transmission and causation of disease by the E. coli bacteria. Certain phenolic compounds present in the grape seed extracts have shown effectiveness against MRSA and C. jejuni infections.
Candida albicans is a popular yeast that loves to grow along the mucosal membranes, especially the vagina. Human studies have not yet provided sufficient evidence, but studies conducted on mice with vaginal candidiasis exhibited significant therapeutic effects.
Grape Seed Extract can be helpful in the Management of Diabetes
A grape seed extract has shown to significantly improve blood sugar control in obese and diabetic patients. Firstly, it reduces the level of inflammatory markers in the blood. Secondly, it significantly improves the lipid profile of the body by reducing triglycerides and total cholesterol in the serum.
Lipid peroxidation is the major culprit behind obesity, atherosclerosis, and the resultant cardiovascular problems in diabetic patients, and GSE greatly inhibits lipid peroxidation.
In addition to improving the glycemic control and lipid profile in diabetic patients, GSE supplementation has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. Various human studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of grape seed extract on the rate of improvement of diabetic retinopathy.
Grape Seed Extract Recommended Dosage
The grape seed extract is available as tablets and capsules of up to 100 mg each. There have been no severe side effects of taking grape seed extracts, and hence, we do not have a tolerable upper limit for its daily dosage. Dosages of up to 2500 mg of grape seed extract have been used in studies safely, without any significant side effects.
For daily consumption for various conditions, healthcare providers recommend different dosing. For instance, recommended daily dosing for venous insufficiency is around 75 to 300 mg per day for 3 weeks and then 40 to 80 mg per day.
Similarly, for ocular stress, professionals prescribe a dosage of up to 300 mg per day. By and large, dosages of up to 400 mg are recommended for healthy adults for daily dosing.
Who should not take Grape Seed Extract?
The following groups of people should observe discretion when taking grape seed extract:
- Individuals who are taking blood thinners such as warfarin
- People with a bleeding disorder should not take grape seed extract since these supplements also tend to reduce the consistency of the blood
- People who are allergic to any kind of grapes should not use grape seed extract either.
Consult your healthcare provider to confirm if you should take grape seed extract with your particular health conditions if you have any.
Grape seed extract has been proved innocuous when given to healthy volunteers in various studies. But it can present with some exaggerated effects when the following drugs and medications are taken with the grape seed extract dietary supplementation:
- Medical journals have repeatedly warned about the simultaneous use of grape seed extract and other blood thinners such as warfarin and aspirin. GPE itself has blood thinning effects, which get exaggerated and result in an acquired bleeding tendency in the patient.
- Taking grape juice or grape extracts can increase the rate of metabolism and excretion of the drug phenacetin from the body. Phenacetin is prescribed for seizures, and its effectiveness may decrease when taken with some grape extract.
- You should not take grape seed extract and vitamin C together. This combination may worsen blood pressure rather than reduce it. The National Institutes of health across the world have well-documented this warning, but medical expertise lacks the knowledge of the real reason behind this effect.
Are there any Side Effects of using Grape Seed Extract?
As discussed above, there are no reported or documented side effects of using grape seed extract, or we can say that we have insufficient evidence. Mild side effects that may occur in some individuals when they start taking the supplements include:
- Itchy scalp
If you do not fall in any of the categories of contraindications for grape seed extract, the above mild side effects are all you need to worry about. However, the major risk lies with those who are allergic to grapes.
Grape Seed Extract Toxicity
Three-month oral toxicity of grape seed extract in rats revealed no significant changes in the hematological, neurological, or ocular parameters. However, the serum levels of iron were lower than those at the beginning of the study.
Grape seed extracts are known as blood thinners. People with the tendency to over bleed owing to some bleeding disorder should observe discretion. Taking grape seed extracts may be toxic for these individuals.
Since grape seed extract supplementations are metabolized by the liver, excess quantities have been conjectured to cause liver damage. We need further research to confirm that.
The Bottom Line
The prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine for chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer has been increasing. Because supplements like the grape seed extract and other flavonoids-containing natural medicines treat the disease from the root and do not cause any side effects. The above health benefits, side effects, and recommended dosages of the grape seed extract will help you put it to the right use.