Can grapes increase gut bacteria, reduce cholesterol and protect your heart?
Can eating grapes alter your gut health for good? A new research, conducted by the Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, has found that when healthy adults had three servings of grapes daily for two weeks, they increased some types of gut bacteria while decreasing others.
The levels of some gut bacteria, like that of Holdemania Spp decreased, while those of others, like Streptococcus Thermophilus, increased. Now Streptococcus Thermophilus is a probiotic, can help break down food, absorb nutrients and fight disease-causing organisms. This is commonly used to produce fermented dairy foods such as yogurt. Researchers also saw shifts in various enzyme levels and biological pathways. Even 30 days after stopping grape consumption, some individuals still exhibited changes in their microbiome, enzymes and pathways, suggesting that the effects last long.
According to Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist, Apollo Hospitals, the study establishes a correlation although it found that the grapes did not affect overall gut diversity. Therefore, more scientific evidence is needed to directly link grapes to an increase in favourable gut bacteria. But they certainly act as enablers, she says.
Can consuming grapes daily increase certain gut bacteria?
Grapes are known to contain dietary fibre, polyphenols and other bioactive compounds that can have positive effects on gut health.
Dietary fibre in grapes can act as a prebiotic, providing nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria can ferment the fibre, producing short-chain fatty acids that support intestinal health. Additionally, polyphenols found in grapes, such as resveratrol, have potential prebiotic-like effects by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
How does gut bacteria help the human body?
Gut bacteria, also known as the gut microbiota or microbiome, refers to the vast community of micro-organisms that reside in the digestive tract, primarily in the large intestine. They assist in the breakdown and digestion of complex carbohydrates, fibre, and other compounds that the human body cannot digest on its own. They produce enzymes that break down these substances into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and utilised by the body. In this process, they help extract additional energy and nutrients from food. Emerging research suggests that the gut microbiota may influence metabolism and weight regulation.
How does consuming grapes affect gut health?
Consuming grapes can have positive effects on gut health due to several factors, including the presence of dietary fibre, polyphenols and other beneficial compounds. Fibre adds bulk to the stool, aiding regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Grapes are rich in polyphenolic compounds, such as resveratrol, flavonoids and anthocyanins, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Digestion and Nutrient Absorption: Gut bacteria assist in the breakdown and digestion of complex carbohydrates, fibre and other compounds that the human body cannot digest on its own. They produce enzymes that break down these substances into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and utilised by the body. In this process, they help extract additional energy and nutrients from food.
Immune System Function: The gut microbiota plays a vital role in supporting the immune system. The presence of beneficial bacteria helps maintain a healthy balance and prevents the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms. Certain gut bacteria stimulate the production of immune cells, regulate inflammation and enhance the barrier function of the intestinal lining, all of which contribute to a robust immune response.
Metabolism and Weight Regulation: Emerging research suggests that the gut microbiota may influence metabolism and weight regulation. Studies have found differences in the gut bacterial composition between individuals who are lean and those who are overweight or obese. Certain gut bacteria may affect energy balance, fat storage, and even appetite regulation, potentially impacting weight management.
Synthesis of Vitamins and Other Bioactive Compounds: Some gut bacteria are capable of producing vitamins, such as vitamin K and certain B vitamins, which are important for various physiological processes. Additionally, the gut microbiota can ferment dietary fibres and produce short-chain fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects and provide an energy source for the cells lining the colon.
Brain-Gut Axis and Mental Health: There is growing evidence of a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain, known as the brain-gut axis. The gut microbiota can influence the production of neurotransmitters and other molecules that can impact mood, behaviour and brain function. Alterations in the gut bacterial composition have been associated with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and neurodevelopmental disorders.
How does consumption of grapes improve overall health as well as heart health?
Consuming grapes can contribute to overall health and promote heart health through various mechanisms. Here are some ways in which grape consumption can have positive effects:
Antioxidant Activity: Grapes are rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols such as resveratrol, flavonoids and anthocyanins. These antioxidants help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by harmful free radicals. Oxidative stress is associated with various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, and the antioxidants in grapes can help reduce this oxidative stress.
Cardiovascular Health: Resveratrol, may help improve blood vessel function, reduce inflammation and inhibit the oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. These effects can help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.
Blood Pressure Regulation: Regular consumption of grapes and grape products, such as grape juice, has been associated with lower blood pressure levels. Some studies suggest that the polyphenols and other bioactive compounds in grapes can help relax blood vessels, improving blood flow and reducing hypertension.
Heart-Protective Effects: Grapes have demonstrated potential heart-protective effects. Research suggests that grape consumption may help reduce the risk of blood clot formation, promote healthy blood flow and improve the function of the endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels). These effects contribute to better cardiovascular health and a decreased risk of heart disease.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Chronic inflammation is a significant contributor to the development of cardiovascular diseases. The anti-inflammatory compounds found in grapes, including polyphenols, can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, supporting heart health.
Cholesterol Management: Some studies have suggested that regular grape consumption may help improve lipid profiles, including reducing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. This favourable effect on cholesterol levels can help decrease the risk of heart disease.
How many servings of grapes can be consumed in a day?
The appropriate serving size of grapes can vary depending on factors such as individual dietary needs, overall calorie intake and personal preferences. However, as a general guideline, the American Heart Association recommends consuming about 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day as part of a balanced diet.
When it comes to grapes, a typical serving size is around 1 cup, which is equivalent to approximately 32 grapes. This serving provides about 104 calories. Keep in mind that grapes are relatively high in natural sugars, so it’s important to consume them in moderation and do some carb counting for balancing the caloric load.
How to include grapes in a diabetic diet
1) Practise portion control: About 17 small grapes, roughly half a cup, contain approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates. Cut carbs from other foods to make space.
2) Pair with protein and fibre to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbs.
3) Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly to understand how grapes specifically affect you and make adjustments as needed.
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Source: The Indian Express