Many studies suggest that moderate intake of red wine can be beneficial to your cardiovascular health . . . but, what happens if you want to stay away from alcohol?
You have a great option. Research presented at the 2007 WINEHEALTH Conference in Bordeaux, France, showed that the Concord grape, the popular purple grape, stimulates arterial relaxation, producing an effect similar to that of red wine. Moreover, according to French researchers from the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, this grape has properties superior those of wine grapes, as it produces a prolonged relaxing effect on arteries not reported in studies of red wine.
The group led by Valérie Schini-Kerth found that this grape stimulates production of nitric acid in endothelial cells that make up the epithelium--the thin membrane covering the inner wall of blood vessels and of the heart--which produces long-term vasorelaxation. Nitric acid levels are linked to the body's system of natural defenses, protecting blood vessels and regulating blood pressure.
Experts say this study shows that wine's preventative qualities are in its grapes, and not its processing, since grape juice has the same effect on the arteries based on the same chemical reactions. The French research confirms previous findings that had shown juice from this particular kind of grape--available under various brands in large supermarket chains--to lower blood pressure, positioning it as an ideal wine alternative.
Though grape-based drinks have been available since the year 1000 A.D., it was in 1854 that the Concord variety was named, in honor of the Massachusetts town of the same name, where the grape was first grown. The Concord grape is the prodigal daughter of other New England strains, and is both robust and aromatic. It was discovered by Bostonian Ephraim Wales Bull, who tested more than 2,000 types of grapes before ending up with this almost perfect one. The year it was introduced it won an award from the Boston Horticultural Society.
But it was Thomas Welch, a dentist from Vineland, New Jersey, who made juice from it in 1869. With the help of his wife and son, he harvested 40 pounds of purple Concord grapes, cooked them for a few minutes and bottled the resulting juice in 12 bottles. Welch prevented the juice from fermenting by using the pasteurization process proposed by Louis Pasteur, the very one whose namesake university 150 years later produced definitive research on its benefits.
This first grape liquid was used in methodist churches for ceremonial purposes. Today, more than 336,000 tons of this wonderful, acidic juice are produced annually, which you can now not only consider a refreshing thirst-quencher, but also an ally that may benefit your heart.
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