Looking for every possible weapon in the battle of the bulge? Grab grapes (with seeds)!  Preliminary research suggests that polyphenol compounds in grape seeds may repel pounds. Japanese researchers looked at weight gain among mice fed a high-fat diet — with or without grape seed extract. Over a three-month period the grape seed-fed mice gained 16% less weight on a high-fat diet than did the grape-less group. Moreover, the non-grape group ended up with 216% more abdominal fat (the most dangerous kind), and 27% higher cholesterol.

Don’t interpret these results as a license to splurge: The fat-fed grape seed group still ended up 8% heavier, with a 22% bigger belly, than they had at the beginning of the study. But grape seed did appear to restrain fat synthesis and boost fat metabolism — much like compounds in blood oranges, mandarins and curry. Meanwhile, one Michigan State study found that grapes improved heart function and reduced blood pressure when mixed into the high-salt feed of rats. Another basic study using a model for Parkinson’s disease found that grape extract improved mobility and longevity. Grape juice also helped increase HDL (good) cholesterol in a Boston University trial.

For a delicious way to enjoy grapes, try this month’s featured recipe: Waldorf Salad with Apples, Grapes and Walnuts in Vinaigrette.

Published October 1, 2011