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Possible Heart Benefits From Anthocyanins, Better Absorbed From Juice

Want to get all the heart health benefits of red wine without the hangover? Raise a cup of Concord grape juice!

While conventional wisdom has attributed red wine’s cholesterol-regulating effects to its alcohol content, health experts have been hesitant to uncritically encourage consumption of a beverage that also carries health risks ranging from dependence to breast cancer to brain damage to stroke. Now, new research raises the possibility that it’s the anthocyanins in red wine that confer heart health benefits — and apparently, our bodies can absorb those anthocyanins more easily from red grape juice than from red wine.

French researchers found that Concord grape juice helped relax cells lining blood vessels in animal lab cultures. A previous human clinical trial at Boston University found that Concord grape juice also increased HDL (good) cholesterol and significantly lowered two markers for inflammation. Historically such benefits have been credited to alcohol — which, of course, is absent from grape juice — suggesting that the anthocyanins found in both grape juice and wine deserve closer scrutiny.

Along these lines, German researchers decided to investigate the relative bioavailability of anthocyanins in red grape juice vs. red wine. They measured anthocyanin presence in nine healthy volunteers who drank either red wine or grape juice with a four-week wash-out period before switching beverages.

Researchers found 28% higher anthocyanin levels in grape juice drinkers’ urine compared to red wine drinkers. Polyphenol activity in the blood of the grape juice drinkers was higher — and remained higher — than that resulting from wine intake.

For more on grape juice — as well as OJ, veg juice, pineapple juice and others — check out our review of the potential health benefits of popular fruit and vegetable beverages.

Published August 1, 2007

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