The health benefits of eating grapes

Cup of Good Cheer

If you eat grapes, you may be able to minimize the brain damage caused by a stroke, according to a recent study. And where did I learn about this study? Over the intercom at the grocery store.

The intercom volume at the grocery where I shop is turned down low, so I’m guessing that the grape information (which turned out to be an advertisement for grape juice) was supposed to be almost subliminal – just whispered in my ear -so that I would make a beeline for the beverage aisle and pick up a gallon jug of grape juice, even though it wasn’t on my list and I had no specific desire for grape juice.

What struck me most about the intercom ad was the way it casually referred to the “high antioxidant” content of grapes. Only a few short years ago the concept of free-radical-fighting antioxidants didn’t even show up on the mainstream radar. But in 2003 the word “antioxidant” gets piped in over grocery intercoms, as if everyone knows what an antioxidant is, what it does, and why it’s good.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Delayed reaction

Meanwhile we already know that grapes are good for us. Dark-skinned grapes in particular contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce cardiovascular and cancer risks. As I’ve written in previous e-Alerts, the reputation of red wine as a relatively healthy alcoholic beverage is due primarily to the effects of resveratrol.

Now winemakers have another reason to thank those scientists who devote their careers to resveratrol research. A new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia (UM-C) shows that resveratrol intake may help minimize the brain damage that emerges after a stroke has occurred.

When a blockage reduces blood flow and triggers a stroke, the brain’s oxygen supply is interrupted, prompting neurons to release amino acids. This causes calcium to move into the neurons and triggers the generation of free radicals, which can cause delayed cell death several days after the initial onset of a stroke.

The UM-C study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Brain Research, which is not published online, so the readily available information comes from a UM-C press release, which unfortunately overlooks some key details. (The release mentions, by the way, that the research was funded with a National Institutes of Health grant of well over 5 million (taxpayer) dollars. For that kind of money, we should all be getting a complimentary copy of the study in the mail!)

Using laboratory animals (which I’m assuming were somehow artificially induced to experience strokes), the UM-C team found that resveratrol neutralized enough free radicals to help prevent some of the neuron damage. The press release states, “The researchers found a remarkable difference between brain cells that had been treated with resveratrol and those that had not.”

By now we know that all study reports need to be carefully examined and taken with a grain of salt. But at face value, this research would seem to provide a basis for further study using human subjects.


Because this e-alert is going out to you on Christmas Eve, rather than dwell on the effects of strokes, let’s turn our attention instead to the obvious health benefits of resveratrol – a list of benefits that seems to get longer with each passing

So whether you care to enjoy a cup of good cheer as red wine or grape juice, either way you can rest assured that you’re raising a toast to good health.

As always, I hope that you and your loved ones are in the very best of health this Christmas Eve. On behalf of myself and everyone at the Health Sciences Institute, we wish you a warm and happy holiday season.

“Grapes Are Great For The Brain” University of
Missouri-Columbia’s School of Medicine, 11/24/03,
“Grapes May Minimize Brain Damage in Stroke Victims: Study” Asian News International, 11/26/03,