Lower blood pressure with grapes

November 20, 2008 by  
Filed under featured, Health, Natural Medicine

Ever wondered why grapes are the most popular fruit to take to hospital? Or why the visitor ends up eating them as well as the patient? It could be because visiting someone in hospital – or being a patient – is a stressful time and it seems that grapes help lower blood pressure and improve heart function.

High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure and admittedly this study was sponsored in part by Californian grape producers, but we already know that flavonoids, the beneficial chemicals found in grapes, green tea, cocoa and tomatoes, have an effect on blood pressure and this seems to confirm that.

So buy an extra large bunch next time you are visiting, or treat yourself to one at home. Oh, and drinking a herb tea containing hibiscus may also lower blood pressure according to Diane L. McKay, Ph.D., of Tufts University in Boston, who reported the good results to the American Heart Association. Hibiscus is rich in Vitamin C and could help in reducing cholesterol. If you have difficulty finding it, Hambledon Herbs do an excellent organic one. www.hambledenherbs.com

Mediteranean diet reduces kids asthma risk by 78%

November 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Diets, Food & Nutrition

With 1 in 11 children currently receiving treatment for asthma it is now a very common condition – but that doesn’t make it any the less worrying. We have dealt with asthma before, but some news in this week might help make life easier for some of those children, and their parents. For those who are unsure about asthma in young children, the symptoms to look out for are:

* A cough at night
* A cold that doesn’t go away
* A whistling sound when breathing out

That last symptom is particularly relevant in the UK as we apparently have the highest prevalence of severe wheeze in children aged 13-14 years than anywhere else in the world.

Now the medical journal Allergy is suggesting a way parents can be more in control of the condition through some simple dietary changes. I have talked about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet for heart health in adults, but now it seems it could also relieve asthma symptoms in children. In Crete, where the Mediterranean diet is the norm, an estimated 80% of the children there eat fresh fruit at least twice a day and almost that same number also have fresh vegetables twice daily as well. (Sadly the research doesn’t tell us how they get them to eat so much without a fistfight) So why is it important? Well very few children in Crete have asthma or hay fever and the researchers from the University of Porto in Portugal concluded that their best asthma-fighting foods were oranges, apples, tomatoes and grapes.

Adults on the same type of diet, who had asthma, were found to have fewer attacks and flare-ups. However, if they also included nuts in their diet at least three times a week then that produced less wheezing. A likely explanation for this is that nuts contain a lot of magnesium which helps boost your lung power.

AVOID THIS: There was however one substance that the researchers found that would double the risk of children getting asthma and allergic rhinitis – margarine. This finding confirms what an Australian study found over 7 years ago when they first warned that the polyunsaturated fats found in many margarines can double a child’s chances of having asthma.

If you want more information, please visit www.asthma.org.uk

Could diabetics and others benefit from grape skins?

A recently published paper in the science journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism has reported on new research carried out by scientists at the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England, which has found that resveratrol, a compound present naturally in grape skin, can protect against the cellular damage to blood vessels caused by high production of glucose in diabetes.

Patients with diabetes have elevated levels of glucose that circulate in the blood and which cause both micro- and macro- vascular complications by damaging the mitochondria. These are the tiny power plants within cells responsible for generating energy and when they are damaged they can leak electrons and make highly damaging ‘free radicals’. Serious complications can arise when this happens, including kidney disease, heart disease and retinopathy – which if left untreated can lead to blindness.

Resveratrol stops the damage by helping cells make protective enzymes to prevent the leakage of electrons and the production of the toxic ‘free radicals’. By including grapes in your diet, and other sources such as seeds, peanuts and red wine you could be helping prevent vascular damage caused by hyperglycemia in the future.

Other Health Benefits

You know how you take grapes to patients in hospitals? Well if you take them red grapes the resveratrol in the skin has also been shown to help with other health issues. For instance, if you have the flu, then resveratrol has been shown to prevent the continued reproduction of the flu virus if taken within six hours of the first infection. It has been shown to be anticarcinogenic, and there is also growing evidence that it can also protect the heart. It does this in several ways: inhibits platelet aggregation, the proliferation of smooth-muscle cells, and the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol. So don’t ask ‘Beulah, peel me a grape’, as Mae West famously said, but insist she keeps the skins on!