Let’s face it, Americans are gaining more and more weight at a very rapid pace. According to an August 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not a single state in the entire country has a population with less than a 15 percent obesity rate. In fact, only Colorado has less than 20 percent. Sixteen states have between 20 percent and 24 percent, while another 24 states have between 25 percent and 29 percent obesity. That leaves nine states with a whopping 30 percent or higher obesity rate in their state.
This is even more shocking when you consider that back in 1999, not a single state had more than 24 percent obesity. Eighteen were in the 20 percent to 24 percent range, while 26 had 15 percent to 19 percent obesity. And six were under 15 percent.
And if you go back to 1989, the current numbers seem even more alarming. There wasn’t a single state with obesity rates over 15 percent. And 18 states had rates under 10 percent. (Data wasn’t available for 10 states at that time.)
Clearly obesity has taken over America. And while most people say that their primary goal for losing weight is to look good, the reality is that obesity comes with lots of baggage beyond the weight.
People who are obese (BMI of 30 or greater) or even overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) are at greater risk for a number of serious health conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory issues
- Liver and/or gallbladder disease
Additionally, obesity often leads to chronic inflammation, which is a risk factor for nearly all of these conditions, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
And since obesity rates keep increasing year over year, clearly our weight loss attempts aren’t very successful. So what can one struggling with their weight do to help offset the risk factors for some of these conditions?
Researchers from Virginia, Michigan, and Montana wondered the same thing.
Metabolics of Obesity
Over the years, we’ve come to understand the different metabolic conditions that occur with obesity. Some of the most common are increased glucose levels, inflammation and oxidative stress (or free radical damage).
In all three cases, antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation and free radical damage. And of all the possible antioxidants out there, grape skin extract in particular has been shown to provide great antioxidant benefits and help in lowering glucose levels.
Given all of this data, researchers set out to determine what effect grape skin extract would have on glucose levels, oxidation and inflammation in mice fed a high-fat diet.
They divided a group of 36 mice into three groups. The first group ate a standard diet that consisted of 60 percent carbohydrate, 23 percent protein and 17 percent fat. They also received 507 mg of vitamin E in their feed.
The second group ate a “Western” high-fat diet with 43 percent carbohydrates, 41 percent fat and 17 percent protein (yes, that adds up 101 percent, but it’s what the said). They also received 1,476 mg of vitamin E in their feed.
The third group ate the same high-fat diet as the second group (including the vitamin E). They also received about 250 mg/kg of body weight of grape skin extract (GSE) in their feed.
Researchers tested body weight, blood glucose, insulin, C-reactive protein, glutathione peroxidase, blood ORAC levels and liver lipid peroxidation of all groups at baseline, as well as every two weeks for 12 weeks.
C-reactive protein is a marker for inflammation, while glutathione peroxidase and ORAC levels are both indicators of antioxidant capacity and activity. Liver lipid peroxidation also indicates if fats within the body have oxidized (a very bad thing).
After the 12 weeks, researchers found that those mice in the high-fat with GSE group gained significantly more weight than the other two groups — 24.6 grams as compared with 20.2 grams in the high-fat group and 11.2 grams in the standard group.
On the glucose front, the mice in the standard group had readings of 110.3 mg/dL, while those in the high-fat group had 144.6 mg/dL. Interestingly, those in the high-fat/GSE group had readings of 119.3 mg/dL … not far off from those in the standard group. There we no significant differences in insulin levels.
On the antioxidant front, the mice in the standard group had ORAC values of 43.1 umol TE/mg, while those in the high-fat group had 49.8 umol TE/mg, and those in the high-fat plus GSE had 52.6 umol TE/mg. One explanation for why there is a smaller gap between the two high-fat groups was the large amount of vitamin E added to the feed of both groups, as vitamin E is also an antioxidant.
Similarly, the standard group has the highest levels of liver lipid peroxidation (8.2 mg MDA/kg). The high-fat group had 5.03, while the high-fat/GSE group had 4.05. Again, the vitamin E likely played a protective role in the two high-fat groups. As for glutathione peroxidase, there was no significant different between the three groups.
But, when it came to C-reactive protein (CRP), there was quite a difference. The high-fat group had CRP levels of 28.6 ng/mL, while the standard group numbers were 22.2 ng/mL, and the high-fat plus GSE came in at 23.7 ng/mL. Again, the grape skin extract kept CRP in the high-fat group in line with those mice eating a standard diet. In fact, it suppressed CRP by 17 percent.
Researchers concluded, “Dietary GSE may play a protective role in improving metabolic complications associated with diet-induced obesity.”
They do point, however, to one interesting finding: the 11 percent increase in weight gain in the high-fat group with the GSE versus the high-fat group without supplementation. They offer a couple of explanations. First is that other studies have shown that anti-hyperglycemic treatments can cause weight gain. The other possibility may have been the amount of carbohydrates in the high-fat diet.
No Magic Bullet
While grape skin extract clearly appears to be an effective tool for maintaining glucose levels and keeping inflammation in check, it’s no magic bullet or substitute for weight loss.
To truly lower your risk for diabetes, heart disease and the whole list of diseases, your best bet is to lose the weight. That means maintaining a reasonable caloric intake full of nutrient-dense foods and engaging in moderate daily exercise.
And during this process, grape skin extract can give you the boost you need to keep your body as healthy as possible.
It can be difficult to find a standalone grape skin product. Most are combined with resveratrol, bilberry and/or grapeseed extract. Look for one that contains at least 200 mg of grape skin extract.
 Greenspan, P et al. Antiinflammatory properties of the Muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia). J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53:8481-4.
 Hogan, S et al. Dietary supplementation of grape skin extract improves glycemia and inflammation in diet-induced obese mice fed a Western high fat diet. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Apr 13;59(7):3035-41.
 Babu, PV et al. Therapeutic effect of green tea extract on oxidative stress in aorta and heart of streptozotocin diabetic rats. Chem-Biol Interact. 2006;162:114-20.
 Mai, TT et al. Anti-hypertensive activity of an aqueous extract from flower buds of Cleistocalyx operculatus (Roxb.). Merr and Perry. Biosci, Biotechnol, Biochem. 2007;71:69-76.