The muscadine grape, or more specifically, an extract of the muscadine grape of a nutrient that may soon become as household a name as resveratrol, called ellagic acid (also called EA), was part of an intriguing study that had multiple implications when it comes to the metabolism and usage of fat in the human body. The study was done on mice, as most studies are before they are tested on humans, since they have similar metabolic processes to us.
These studies are so far demonstrating that EA may benefit not only your overall cell health due its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but it may also have exciting implications for fat loss, weight maintenance and the overall metabolism and regulation of fat accumulation.
How does ellagic acid affect fat cells and their excess production and storage?
In the study with mice, they received the equivalent of about one and a half cups of muscadine grapes, which are high in ellagic acid, and another group of mice were not. It is important to note that muscadine grapes are the only type of grape with this nutrient, however some oak aged wines also generate this nutrient, and several other foods as listed below, are also rich in EA. Both groups of mice in the study were fed a high fat diet.
However, the mice who consumed the ellagic acid rich food in conjunction with a high fat diet, showed not only less fat cell formation and a marked decrease in liver storage (this often results in what’s termed as a “fatty liver” which can be a dangerous condition over time), but also showed much better control over their insulin levels. This seemed to indicate the EA helped in controlling the release and metabolism of simple sugars (all carbs are broken down into these simple sugars).
The logical conclusion of this study is that ellagic acid seemed to have not only an effect on how the mice stored and metabolized the excess fat in their diet, but also on another important component of overall health and weight maintenance, which is the efficient control of blood glucose levels. Further adding to the effect EA has on fat cells and fat storage, another study, based on human biological models translated from the findings in mice, provided evidence that ellagic acid actually suppresses the formation and growth of fat cells.
Since EA seems to have a huge benefit for expedient carbohydrate and fat metabolism, the implications for weight loss and healthy weight maintenance are promising. While those that released the study were careful to avoid coming out and saying EA is a weight loss aid, they did acknowledge that it may help support healthy blood sugar levels, metabolize fat, and prevent it from storing in the liver, as well as provide important antioxidant support to healthy cells.
Ellagic acid protects the skin from photo aging by protecting against UV damage
EA has another interesting effect that may have anti-aging benefits for those concerned with photo aging (damage caused to the skin by UV exposure). One study showed that daily doses of EA helped protect against UV damage, which is one of the biggest factors in making the skin appear older. The supposed mechanism for this protective quality is that it works by blocking the production of enzymes that break down collagen in damaged skin cells.
This may be due also to its effects on blood glucose control, since sugars in the blood are one of the biggest causative agents in the breakdown of collagen. Excess sugars actually make the walls of collagen rigid, instead of soft and pliable, which lends to the creasing, wrinkling and generally crepey appearance of skin as it ages.
It also reduced the effect of inflammation on skin cells by suppressing the effects of a molecule that is involved in inflammatory reactions. The anti-inflammatory effects of EA could have a very positive effect on preventing sun damage since the skin breaks down over time due to constant exposure to free radicals, whether it be from environmental and UV causes, diet or chemicals.
This anti-inflammatory and cell-protective quality also has numerous benefits when it comes to cancer prevention for a number of different types of cancer, including both male and female dominant types of cancers.
Where can you get the highest concentrations of EA?
The top food choice is probably going to be strawberries. Fresh, wild strawberries have the highest levels, followed by raspberries and blackberries. So fire up that smoothie blender! And remember that frozen organic berries may hold even more antioxidants than fresh since they are immediately frozen after being harvested.
Pomegranates also contain EA, but they are not as high in the actual bioavailable form of EA as the berries are. One of my favorite nuts, the walnut, contains some EA as well, and as you most certainly know by now walnuts also contain a whole host of other beneficial nutrients. Red wine made with muscadine grapes, or aged in oak barrels also contains ellagic acid.