ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 28 (UPI) -- Grapes seem to protect overweight rats from metabolic syndrome, U.S. researchers suggest.
Factors associated with metabolic syndrome and higher risks of heart disease and diabetes -- including high levels of triglycerides and glucose -- were lowered in the grape-fed animals, although there was no change in body weight.
The University of Michigan researchers suggest phytochemicals -- naturally occurring antioxidants -- in grapes may be the reason.
"The possible reasoning behind the lessening of metabolic syndrome is that the phytochemicals were active in protecting the heart cells from the damaging effects of metabolic syndrome," Dr. Steven Bolling said in a statement.
Bolling and colleagues studied the effect of table grapes -- a blend of green, red and black grapes -- mixed into a powdered form and integrated into a "high-fat, American style" diet fed to laboratory rats prone to being overweight. Control rats received no grape powder but were given calories and sugars to balance those in the grape powder.
After three months the rats eating the grape-enriched diet had lower blood pressure, better heart function and reduced indicators of inflammation in the heart and the blood than control rats.
The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology convention in Anaheim, Calif.