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Grape juice helps

(Fitness Forum) -- If you could drink to your heart's content, you would do well to order a few shots of purple grape juice.

Consider it the cardiovascular cocktail.

It may be a bit sweeter than your usual adult beverage. Higher in calories, too. But even orange juice, as it turns out, takes a back seat to purple grape juice in ridding the body of so-called "bad" cholesterol.

Either beverage is a heart-healthy choice, stocked with vitamin C. But a recently published comparison of the two in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that the nonalcoholic nectar of the grape is richer in high-quality antioxidants.

The latest study, led by Joe A. Vinson at the University of Scranton, expands on previous government research that showed the total antioxidant effect of purple grape juice to be more than three times that of either orange, grapefruit, tomato or apple juice.

Studies also have shown that grape juice is a safeguard against blood clots.

Not bad for a beverage that many of us abandon by adolescence.

"Grape juice does a lot of the same things as red wine," said Vinson, a professor of chemistry. Red wine, long heralded for its ability to protect against heart disease, recently took a hit, though, from the American Heart Association.

The AHA issued a statement citing "the potential hazards associated with alcohol consumption," pointing out that medication and exercise can produce a similar increase in protective, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

It's the potentially dangerous low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol that purple -- not white -- grape juice seems to diminish.

In Vinson's study, the effect was shown when healthy humans consumed 13 ounces a day -- one glass in the morning, the other in the evening.

Vinson used a sophisticated methodology to measure oxidation lag times -- essentially the time it takes LDL to hasten the artery-clogging process.

Here's where grape juice had it all over orange juice, prolonging the time it takes LDL to oxidize. The slower the oxidation process, the less likely it is to do its damage.

"There's one thing orange juice has that grape juice doesn't, folic acid," Vinson said. "It has a lot of antioxidants, too, but not the high quality ones you find in grape juice."

That antioxidant advantage packs some caloric consequences. "Ready-to-drink purple grape juice has about 50 percent more calories than orange juice," Vinson said. "The frozen variety has 15 percent of the calories, with the same benefits."

Concluded Vinson: "The take-away message from our study is that people who are looking to promote their cardiovascular health through increased antioxidant consumption might prefer a glass of purple grape juice in the morning to orange juice."

But the orange juice industry is far ahead of grape juice manufacturers in advertising its assets.

One of its slogans: "Drink What Your Heart Tells You To."

Vinson, a widely published researcher, next plans to examine the therapeutic properties of cranberry juice, which is best known for promoting a healthy urinary tract.

If the results follow his track record, look for some provocative discoveries.

We have Vinson, among others, to thank for finding health benefits in such unlikely sources as coffee and chocolate.

Both boast antioxidants known as flavonoids. But the degrees to which they're absorbed and used by humans demands further scrutiny.

(c) 2001 Fitness Forum

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