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Benefits and Risks of Grape Seed Extract

04/24/2006

Question:

I have read that if you are over 50 you should take 100mg of grape seed extract. I take lipitor and was wondering if that amount of grape seed extract would intefer with the lipitor. Also does grape seed extract improve memory?

Answer:

First, it is important to understand that in the US, nutraceuticals are marketed under the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). Scientific data supporting claimed benefit(s) are not always available for nutraceuticals as they are for traditional pharmaceuticals since nutraceuticals are not regulated as drugs. Rigid quality control standards are not required for nutraceuticals and substantial variability can occur in both the potency and the purity of these products2.

While no dosage can be endorsed for the support of any specific health claims at this time, Clinical Pharmacology 2006 explains that a dosage of 50mg per day by mouth of grape seed extract (Vitus vinifera) has been suggested2.

At this time, there is no evidence that Lipitor and grape seed extract have any drug-drug interactions2,3.

The interest in grape seed extracts stems from low incidences of cardiovascular disease in Mediterranean countries where there is regular consumption of red wine in the diet2.  The extract of red grape seed is rich in bioflavonoids reported to be powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent certain molecules and tissues from being oxidized as a result of cellular oxidative reactions. Some oxidative reactions in the body are essential for normal cellular metabolism; other oxidative reactions resulting in free-radical formation can contribute to tissue changes that may contribute to various diseases2.

Like other supplements touted for their antioxidant activities, grape seed extract has been proposed to be chemopreventative, circulatory system protective, and to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Grape seed extract has also been claimed to have potential use in preventing toxicologic liver damage due to acetaminophen or chemotherapy. Some have claimed it may be helpful in the prevention of ocular disorders like macular degeneration. Controlled human data are lacking to support these claims at this time.2

As for improving memory, some evidence does point to a possible link between grape seed extract and memory protection.  However, no human clinical trials have been conducted to support this.  One study conducted in India supplemented aged rats with grape seed extract.  The findings indicated that grape seed extract enhanced antioxidant status and decreased the incidence of free radical induced protein oxidation, thus protecting the central nervous system (which includes the brain).  The supplemented rats displayed increased memory performance.1

Resources

1 Balu M, Sangeetha P, Murali G, Panneerselvam C. Age-related oxidative protein damages in central nervous system of rats: modulatory role of grape seed extract. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience. Oct 2005, 23:6, 501-507.

2 Clinical Pharmacology [database online]. Tampa, FL: Gold Standard, Inc.; 2006. URL: http://www.clinicalpharmacology.com/. 2006.

3 United States Pharmacopeial Convention, Inc. Drug Information for the Health Care Professional. Thompson MICROMEDEX. Greenwood Village CO. 2003.

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Response by:

Sarah C Couch, PhD, RD Sarah C Couch, PhD, RD
Associate Professor
College of Allied Health Sciences
University of Cincinnati