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Proceed To Article The Power Of Grape Juice

From The February 2001 Issue Of Journal Of Medicinal Food

A glass of purple grape juice is more fruitful than you might have imagined. According to preliminary research by a University of Scranton professor, the fruit of the grapevine appears to bear powerful antioxidant qualities that may improve the body's healthy cardiovascular function.

The study, published in the February 2001 issue of Journal of Medicinal Food, used novel and extremely accurate methodology to research the antioxidant qualities of grape juice. Antioxidants have been shown to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, especially the bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL). High cholesterol is, of course, a scientifically documented risk factor for heart disease. Recently LDL oxidation has been hypothesized as the beginning of the atherosclerosis process that starts in childhood. In short, your "pipes" begin to rust at an early age.

The study led by Joe A. Vinson, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at The University of Scranton, analyzed lab tests and the results of human subjects drinking grape juice and orange juice.

"The take-away message from our study is that people who are looking to promote the body's healthy cardiovascular function through increased antioxidant consumption might prefer a glass of purple grape juice in the morning," said Dr. Vinson. "In our research, which involved two different test tube models, we saw dramatically superior antioxidant performance by grape juice. We added grape juice to either human plasma or human LDL and then oxidized it. Grape juice was very effective, but orange juice had no antioxidant effect."

In the human testing conducted by Dr. Vinson, 16 participants were asked to drink either two glasses of grape juice or two glasses of orange juice daily over a period of one week. The study then used blood samples to measure the LDLs' lag time among participants.

In lag time measurement -- a well-accepted method of determining antioxidant effect -- LDL is isolated and exposed to an oxidizing agent. The duration of time between exposure to oxidation and actual oxidation is called lag time. The longer it takes for LDL to oxidize, the less likely it is to contribute to the process where fatty substances like cholesterol cause damage to the arteries.

Subjects consuming purple grape juice showed an increase in lag time of 27 percent. Subjects drinking orange juice showed no change in lag time.

Co-authors of the study led by Dr. Vinson were University of Scranton students Jihong Yang, Xiquan Liang and research assistant John Proch. Ms. Yang and Mr. Liang, both from China, participated in the research project as chemistry graduate students. Ms. Yang is now a senior chemist at Lancaster Labs, Lancaster, Pa. Mr. Liang is continuing his studies at Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, N.Y. Mr. Proch is a research assistant at the University.

Commenting on her participation in the study, Ms. Yang said, "I worked in research in China for six years before coming to The University of Scranton. By participating in Dr. Vinson's experiment, I learned the way in which research was done the United States. This gave me the experience I need to do my job; I also learned what is beneficial to human beings. When I visit relatives in China, I always introduce them to what I learned about nutrition."

Those who follow the antioxidant qualities of various foods may have already heard rumblings about this research through the grapevine. According to Dr. Vinson, the study's conclusions build upon and support previous research, including a 1996 USDA study that showed that the total antioxidant capacity of purple grape juice is more than three times that of orange, grapefruit, tomato or apple juice.

"People drink fruit juice for many reasons," concluded Dr. Vinson. "Orange juice, for example, is an excellent source of Vitamin C, folate and potassium -- nutrients many people may consume in sufficient quantity in their diets otherwise. But for people looking for dietary approaches to increase consumption of natural antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, purple grape juice appears unique in its potential ability to provide a beneficial effect to a variety of cardiovascular functions."

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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