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Ask the Pharmacist: How grape juice helps heart disease

Suzy Cohen
Columnist

A few weeks ago I wrote about PVFS (post viral fatigue syndrome) which is the lingering, intractable fatigue that often plagues victims of viruses for years. It can be caused by the flu, Lyme, Epstein Barr and as of late, COVID-19 has been found to cause this too. The literature is not calling it by its medical term, they’re referring to it as “long-haulers syndrome.”

A new was published regarding grape juice and how it could help LVH (and likely high blood pressure). The study entitled, “Grape Juice Attenuates Left Ventricular Hypertrophy in Dyslipidemic Mice,” was done on animals, not people.

This is a post-infectious illness that abates within a few weeks for most people. PVFS has the primary symptom of fatigue, however it is also sometimes accompanied by sleep disturbances too. The exhaustion can be accompanied with other alarming symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, a sensation of lightheadedness, dizziness, heart palpitations and mild chest pain associated with exercise.

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The reason I’m refreshing your memory on PVFS is because I want to contrast that with heart disease, more specifically LVH or left ventricular hypertrophy. The symptoms for this and PVFS look similar and so it is something you need to consider if you have the symptoms above.

Left ventricular hypertrophy is not the same as PVFS, even though the symptoms are similar. LVH is an enlargement and thickening (termed hypertrophy) of the interior walls of your heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle). LVH is almost always driven by hypertension as its underlying cause. The high pressure in your blood vessels makes the left ventricle of your heart work ridiculously harder, and then the enlargement happens afterwards.

A new was published regarding grape juice and how it could help LVH (and likely high blood pressure). The study entitled, “Grape Juice Attenuates Left Ventricular Hypertrophy in Dyslipidemic Mice,” was done on animals, not people.

The researchers took 30 mice and divided them into three different groups of 10 rodents, one of which received grape juice.

The researchers carefully evaluated inflammatory cytokine markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), insulin, MMP-2 and MMP-9 as well as blood sugar and other parameters. After two months, the animals who received grape juice faired out just as well as rodents who were given the popular statin drug called simvastatin. Their high cholesterol and insulin resistance issues improved too! Further, and this is the best part, the cytokines MMP-2 and MMP-9 (which attacks the brain!) reduced, as did their levels of CRP. This means it has a protective benefit to the heart and blood vessels. 

Keep in mind this is over 60 days, and it was just grape juice! The grape juice they used was botanically known as vitis labrusca, or “fox grape” from which Concord grape juice is derived. Jellies are made from this too.

We cannot extrapolate that grape juice is a substitute for medications and standard treatment. But drinking a little juice each day is something I recommend due to the potent antioxidant benefits as well as the potential help it offers LVH. Because medications used for LVH often come with uncomfortable side effects, adjunctive foods and supplements can play an important role.  Furthermore, as good as the drugs are, they are just blowing the smoke out of the house, they’re not putting the fire out.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.