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16 February 2012
Grapes are a many splendoured thing. Oh sure, people say the same about love, but can you drink love while nibbling cheese and crackers and watching the sun set over a rolling sea? Can you pluck love from the bunch and bite into it feeling the juices shower your tastebuds? Does love contain substances that will prolong your life and protect your body? Oh alright, maybe love is a many splendoured thing too, but so are grapes and they do all these things and more. In fact, the latest “more” regarding grapes has come to light over the last couple of decades where the benefits of grape seed have been revealed.
Both red and, to a lesser extent, white grapes provide antioxidants. It is the seeds of white grapes however, that pack a real antioxidant punch. The coating of white grape seeds yields substances known as “oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes” (OPCs) which have an antioxidant effect around 50 times greater than vitamin C or vitamin E. These OPCs have been well studied over the last couple of decades but now a new study has found that they can be effective in preventing head and neck cancer.
The researchers for this new study made the point that cancer cells are necessarily fast growing. They tested grape seed extract against squamous cell carcinoma lines from the head and the neck. What they found was that grape seed extract damages the DNA in the cancer cells meaning that the cells could not replicate. Additionally, the grape seed extract blocked the pathways in the cancer cells that would have allowed for repair of the DNA damage by blocking the repair molecules Brca1 and Rad51.
The really good news from this study was that the grape seed extract did not kill healthy cells. Cancer cells have a lot of defective biochemical pathways that are not present in healthy cells and if you can target those pathways, as grape seed extract seems to do, then you have a cancer treatment that will not adversely affect the rest of the body.
There you have it, the grape: yielder of wine, succulent food, and healer of bodies. No wonder we have such grape expectations.