Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Can Wine and Grape Juice Really Burn Fat?
Did you see the latest news headlines that drinking wine or red grape juice can help to burn fat? A red wine and grape juice diet seems too good to be true, right?
Would you be surprised to learn that there actually just may be some truth to this media headline? This news story comes from a new scientific study exploring the effects of ellagic acid.
Just what is ellagic acid, is there a better way to get it, and is this something I want more of in my diet?
In writing this article, I have a disclosure to make. Red grapes are my favorite fruit. This publicly professed love of red grapes does have its draw backs though.
This past week I had a full-day of medical society meetings in Washington DC. Spying the fruit plate I saw one last remaining bunch of red grapes. I tried taking just a portion of the grapes but they weren’t separating. Not wanting to make a scene or spill fruit all over my suit, I made the only logical decision in my mind at the time and took the one remaining bunch of red grapes.
Later, a colleague and fellow reader of this blog, approached me on a break and mentioned, “I noticed you took all of the red grapes.” I was caught and had to confess. With this article I may be watched even more closely…
What is Ellagic Acid?
Ellagic acid is a potent natural antioxidant that can be found in many different fruits and vegetables. Ellagic acid has also been shown to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in the test tube.
It is for this later effect that many supplement companies have come under FDA scrutiny for falsely advertising that ellagic acid supplements cure cancer. In fact, ellagic acid is even listed as one of the FDA’s 187 fake cancer “cures” consumers should avoid.
While ellagic acid has not yet been shown to prevent cancer in humans, it should be noted that the effects of ellagic acid on tumor cells is different than resveratrol, which is also found in grapes and was recently discussed in one of my articles. In this article, we will explore the possible effects of ellagic acid on fat cells and cholesterol levels.
What did this latest study actually show?
Headlines aside, what does the actual science from this study teach us? In this study from the University of Florida and Nebraska, researchers gave overweight and sedentary mice a muscadine grape phytochemical powder which is packed full of ellagic acid.
The key findings of this mouse study are as follows:
1. Ellagic acid stopped the formation of new fat cells and burned existing fat cells in the liver.
2. Ellagic acid blocked cells from taking up lipids and from forming new lipid particles.
3. Ellagic acid lowered the triglyceride levels of mice.
4. Ellagic acid helped to keep blood sugar levels normal.
These 4 findings suggest that ellagic acid may help mice to stay lean and free of diabetes as well as preventing fatty liver and keeping their cholesterol levels under control. Could these same fat burning and cholesterol lowering effects be true in humans as well?
What dose of ellagic acid do I need?
If you trying to replicate the effects of this study, you need to know how much ellagic acid was used. Fortunately, the ellagic acid dose used in this study was a very reasonable amount.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Neil Shay, it was the “human equivalent” of eating a cup and a half of grapes each day. This was just about the amount of red grapes that I was caught taking this past week in Washington DC.
Before we get to enthusiastic about the results of this study, I need to point out the obvious. This study was done in mice and we are not mice. As is so common in medicine, benefits seen in a mouse often cannot be translated to a human. To date, there are no convincing data that the same findings seen in this study can be replicated in humans.
Do we have to drink red wine or grape juice to get these effects?
As you have undoubtedly gleaned from this article thus far, the answer is no. In this study, mice were given a muscadine grape supplement.
After reading the report that came out this past week that 79% of supplements are a scam according to DNA analysis, I would not recommend obtaining ellagic acid from the supplement form. Even more frightening is that these supplements did not come from some overseas shady internet site but rather from large chain drug stores like Target, Wal-mart, GNC, and Walgreens. Indeed, based in part on this report, New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is now going after these supplement sellers.
If the supplement form is not a good way to get ellagic acid then red wine and grape juice, like mentioned in news headlines, could be another alternative form. My concern is that getting ellagic acid from red wine or grape juice could lead to unnecessary weight gain or other undesirable effects.
As mentioned, the amount of muscadine grape supplement given to mice in this study is the equivalent of a cup and a half of red grapes for humans. This is something that is very doable for most red grape lovers like me. What should you do if you don’t like red grapes? Are there other food options for ellagic acid?
The 6 Best Food Sources of Ellagic Acid
If you want to boost your ellagic acid, here are the foods that contain the highest amount of this molecule:
1. Red grapes
2. Berries including blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries
3. Nuts such as pecans and walnuts
Fortunately, these are all foods that are very healthy food choices. Based on this list it seems like it should be very easy for most of us to get all of the ellagic acid our bodies need.
How do you get your ellagic acid?
As there are no convincing studies demonstrating the benefits of ellagic acid yet in humans, please discuss this article with your physician before trying to increase your intake of ellagic acid.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.