In humans, youth is characterized by a clearly discernible period of physical and mental development. As our cells multiply, our bodies become bigger and stronger – and as we continue to take in knowledge, our cognitive abilities increase. But as we are well aware, something goes awry in the cell renewal process when we reach the 20-35 year old mark. We begin to lose our ability to respond favorably to stressors, biological homeostasis decreases and we become more prone to diseases. In a nutshell, we begin to age.
From the dawn of man to our present day, the production and consumption of grapes and various grape products (raisins, wines, juices, etc.) have been intricately interwoven into the fabric of human history. Not only do grapes provide us with vital carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and edible fibers, they also supply us with essential phytochemicals. Due to their numerous biological activities and promotion of good general health, grape polyphenols are, without a doubt, the most important of these grape phytochemicals.
Grapes are smooth-skinned, fleshy berries from the woody, perennial, deciduous vines of the botanical genus Vitis and family Vitaceae. They exist in a wide variety of forms, flavors and textures, with different species targeted to different uses. Most of the fresh grapes that we buy at the supermarket are derived from cultivars of the European grapevine Vitis vinifera. However there are several other popular species such as Vitis labrusca (eaten fresh or used to make grape juice in North America), Vitis amurensis (native to the Asian continent), Vitis riparia (a wild vine of North America whose fruits are used to make wine and jam) and Vitis rotundifolia (native to the Southeastern United States, and also used for wine and jam making).