Eating grapes is potentially the cheapest, easiest way to improve your immune system, your metabolism, and your brain health. For around $2.09 per pound, grapes contain a bounty of essential nutrients including Vitamin C, antioxidants, calcium, and more. Now, three new studies suggest that just adding two cups of grapes to a high-fat diet can provide remarkable health benefits, surpassing our understanding of the benefits of grapes.

Dr. John Pezzuto examined the health benefits of grapes with a team of researchers from Western New England University. The three studies focus on lifespan, metabolism, fatty liver disease, and brain health, revealing that grape consumption yielded reductions in fatty liver and extended lifespans. To conduct the studies, the researchers analyzed how grape consumption altered gene expression in mice. Despite not conducting human tests, the researchers emphasize that these results can reliably translate to human health issues.

“We have all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat,' which is obviously true since we all start out as a fetus and end up being an adult by eating food,” Western New England University Researcher and senior author of three new studies Dr. John Pezzuto said. “But these studies add an entirely new dimension to that old saying. Not only is food converted to our body parts, but as shown by our work with dietary grapes, it actually changes our genetic expression. That is truly remarkable.”

First Study: Longevity and Fatty Liver Disease

Pezzuto’s first study concluded that grape consumption triggered unique gene expressions in the mice. This study found that grape consumption led to a reduced risk of fatty liver disease and expanded the overall lifespan of the animal consuming the grapes. To properly conduct the study, the animals followed a high-fat western style diet. Published in Foods, this study claims that grape consumption can modulate the adverse effects of a traditional Western diet, preventing oxidative damage.

“What is the effect of this alteration of gene expression? Fatty liver, which affects around 25% of the world’s population and can eventually lead to untoward effects, including liver cancer, is prevented or delayed,” the researchers stated. “The genes responsible for the development of fatty liver were altered in a beneficial way by feeding grapes.”

Second Study: Metabolism

The second study, published in Food & Function, found that the consumption of grapes changes metabolism. When Pezzuto and his research team introduced grapes to mice following high-fat diets, researchers found increased levels of antioxidant genes in the mice. The study concluded that grapes help reprogram the metabolism of the gut microbiota, increasing the efficiency of the liver and energy production.

“Many people think about taking dietary supplements that boast high antioxidant activity,” Pezzuto said. “In actual fact, though, you cannot consume enough of an antioxidant to make a big difference. But if you change the level of antioxidant gene expression, as we observed with grapes added to the diet, the result is a catalytic response that can make a real difference.”

Third Study: Brain Health

Published in the journal Antioxidants, the final study observed how grape consumption benefits brain function. The research highlights that a high-fat diet presents negative behavioral and cognitive pressures on the brain. In contrast, grape consumption helps alleviate these pressures, having a positive effect on the brain and brain metabolism. The researchers noted that this initial conclusion will require more research to determine the extent of the positive impacts.

“Although it is not an exact science to translate years of lifespan from a mouse to a human, our best estimate is the change observed in the study would correspond to an additional 4-5 years in the life of a human,” Pezzuto said. “Precisely how all of this relates to humans remains to be seen, but it is clear that the addition of grapes to the diet changes gene expression in more than the liver.”

Plant-Based Diet Improves Longevity

This February, a study found that a mostly plant-based diet can prolong life expectancy by over 10 years. The team of Norweigan researchers found that introducing more plant-based foods earlier in life helps cut down the risk of life-threatening disease and improves your overall health. Following an "optimal" diet – defined as primarily plant-based a little fish – showed long-term health benefits, whereas diets high in red or processed meat showed an inverse relationship.

Another study from last March found that eating more plant-based is key to maintaining a healthy gut. This study concluded that by improving gut health, you can improve longevity and prolong your lifespan. The researchers claim that building a healthy microbiome at an earlier age is essential to better health in old age.

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