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Grape Seed Extracts and Vascular Health

Grape seed extracts are widely promoted in magazines and online. Is there a seed of truth in the promotions?

Recently, as I savoured a large bowl of grapes, my mother shared some insightful advice. She recommended chewing and swallowing the grape seeds instead of spitting them out, referencing a supplement website she'd come across that stated that grape seed extract (GSE) is a recognized herbal solution for alleviating symptoms of non-complicated chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a condition in which leg veins become damaged and struggle to send blood back up to the heart. Her detailed explanation took me by surprise, prompting me to look into this promising supplement even though I had no reason to be concerned about my leg veins.

GSE, rich in proanthocyanidins—potent antioxidants—is believed to bolster the strength of blood vessels and enhance circulation. A 2022 pilot study that highlights its potential in treating chronic venous insufficiency is often showcased by manufacturers. However, caution is warranted considering GSE's supporting evidence comes from pilot studies rather than extensive, randomized trials. Such preliminary research suggests GSE, especially when combined with compression stockings, may enhance blood flow in CVI patients.

Side effects of GSE are not well documented, with only a single clinical case reported up to the writing of this article. The potential for overblown claims and the lack of comprehensive safety data could tarnish GSE's reputation and mislead the health community. While supplements often promise health benefits, they commonly don't withstand rigorous scientific scrutiny. For middle-aged individuals experiencing prehypertension, GSE shows some promise, but conclusive benefits require further investigation.

To sum up, GSE may have some benefit, but “may” is the operative word. So, did I end up chomping down those grape seeds? Well, that's a bit tricky, seeing as it's a challenge to find seeded grapes on Canadian shelves. But next time, if fortune smiles and I stumble upon a bunch with seeds, maybe I'll give it a shot. But I won’t be reaching for any GSE supplements. I’ll just enjoy the grapes, nature's own little capsules of health.


Xiaoran is a U3 student in the Bachelor of Science in Nutrition program at McGill University.

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