- Recently published studies suggest that grape consumption can have a positive impact on health and lifespan.
- Adding more grapes to a high-fat Western diet could reduce the risk of fatty liver disease and increase longevity.
- Despite positive results, experts say eating grapes is not a panacea for poor eating habits and does not offset the overall effects of consuming a high-fat Western diet long-term.
- A healthy, balanced diet made up of nutrient-dense whole foods is recommended by most experts for optimal health and well-being.
A growing body of evidence supports the positive effects of a diet derived from whole food sources, including fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods.
A series of new studiespublished in the journal foodsuggest that grape consumption can have a significant impact on health and mortality, especially when added to a high-fat Western diet.
The research, which was partially funded by the California Grape Commission, suggests that adding about 2 cups of grapes a day to a high-fat Western diet resulted in less fatty liver disease and longer lifespans. in mice.
Fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and possibly liver cancer. According to the results of the study, table grapes may have an important role to play in reducing the incidence of fatty liver disease and its fatal sequelae.
Main author John PezzutoPhD, dean and professor of pharmacy at Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, said his research demonstrates how eating grapes could help offset some of the effects of a high-fat Western diet.
“First, lifespan is increased, indicating a whole-body global response,” Pezzuto told Healthline. “Then the body’s antioxidant defense system is strengthened. In addition, fatty liver disease, which is believed to affect 25% of the population and lead to poor health outcomes, is prevented or at least delayed. »
According to Pezzuto, the study results also indicate that anyone could potentially benefit from eating more grapes, regardless of what type of diet or eating pattern a person might adhere to.
“The mechanisms we have shown to be mediated by grapes can be generalized to promote good health regardless of diet,” Pezzuto said.
A healthy gut microbiome is important for overall health and well-being and influences the functioning of vital organs, including the brain.
Study co-author Jeffrey IdlePhD, Director and Endowed Professor of Arthur G. Zupko Systems Pharmacology and Pharmacogenomics at Long Island University, explained that it was evident in the research that adding grapes had a profound effect on the microbiota in the mouse model.
But more research is still needed to determine if the health effects of grapes can be replicated in humans, particularly if eating grapes can reduce or reverse fatty liver disease.
In general, experts don’t recommend a high-fat Western diet, although adding more grapes to the mix could potentially offset some — but not all — of the negative effects.
“Grapes are known to contain resveratrol, a phytonutrient [and] antioxidant which is anti-inflammatory and may benefit health,” said Dana Ellis femalesPhD, MPH, RD, senior clinical dietitian UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and author of “Recipe for survival.”
“That said, a high fat content [or] The high animal protein Western diet cannot be completely reversed with just the addition of 2 cups of grapes [per] day, just as we have seen that adding fish oil supplements to an unhealthy diet is also not a panacea for what ails us.
Hunnes noted that it is often difficult to observe sufficient changes in health outcomes in nutritional studies conducted over short periods of time, especially in studies with non-human animals (Pezzuto’s mouse study has lasted just over 18 weeks).
Research from 2020 attributes the high-fat Western diet to the prevalence of fatty liver disease in developed countries like the United States, with up to a quarter of all Americans affected.
To reduce the effects of Western dietary habits, most health experts recommend eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods.
For example, a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish and plant-based foods, is rich in nutrients, including healthy fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats), recognized for their health benefits and their ability to prevent chronic diseases.
Additionally, a whole plant-based diet, when balanced, is known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease.
In other words, simply adding a few cups of grapes to an otherwise unhealthy diet is less effective for overall health than eating a healthy, balanced diet for life. According to new research, grapes may be a valuable addition to current dietary recommendations.
“As diet influences disease, a healthy, balanced diet offers the best overall disease prevention,” Idle said.
“A daily consumption of 5 servings per day of fruits and vegetables has been recommended, with no stipulation as to specific fruits, for example. Our research in collaboration with Dr. Pezzuto strongly suggests that table grapes should be a major constituent of these 5 servings a day.
A next step to study could be the palliative effect of grapes on the development of fatty liver disease.
“This could be extremely important because so many people are affected by fatty liver disease. We need to look at this in more detail,” Pezzuto said.
“We are particularly fascinated by the effect of grapes on gene expression. We have reported this effect in brain and liver, both with good results, but we know from unpublished work that gene expression is also altered in other tissues, such as the kidney, for example,” said Pezzuto. “We will explore this in more detail.”
Additionally, Pezzuto’s grape study was conducted with females, and his team is currently conducting studies to investigate the effect of grapes on males.
“Some colleagues have suggested that the effects could be even greater [in] males,” Pezzuto said. “This is a long-term study, but we are excited to have the opportunity to continue this work.”
The growing body of research on the health benefits of grapes attests to the positive health effects of consuming a nutrient-dense whole food.
“Overall, I think this work will be considered a tour de force in the field of nutrigenomics,” Pezzuto said. “Not only [are] ‘you are what you eat’, but ‘you become what you eat” by altering gene expression, even in the brain. You have to wonder if eating habits, behavior and personality are more intertwined than ever imagined.
Despite the positive results, however, experts note that adding healthy foods like grapes to an otherwise unhealthy diet is unlikely to have a significant impact on human health and long-term lifespan.
More studies in humans are still needed to determine if eating grapes can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like fatty liver disease and increase lifespan. For now, experts continue to recommend a healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods to promote overall health and well-being.