Proanthocyanidins Nature’s Superb Antioxidants

Proanthocyanidins are nature’s super antioxidants. These compounds are present in the fruits, bark, leaves and  seeds of many plants, where they provide protection against predation. At the same time they give flavor and astringency to beverages such as wine,  fruit juices and teas.

Proanthocyanidins belong to a class of polyphenols, and are widely distributed throughout the plant kingdom. Most people ingest trace amounts of proanthocyanidins through foods such as red  wine and cranberry juice. However, the functional properties of  proanthocyanidins have been little understood. The antioxidative  activities of proanthocyanidins are much stronger than vitamin C or vitamin E in aqueous systems.

Proanthocyanidins are in the first place very strong antioxidants. Studies have shown that proanthocyanidins act as anti-cancer and anti-allergic agents, and that they improve heart health.

Proanthocyanidins protect against oxidative damage and could reduce the damage caused by tobacco smoking, pollution and free radical form in our body during normal metabolism.

Many studies have shown that proanthocyanidins help to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and improve fat metabolism. The inhibitory action against LDL cholesterol appears to increase with the degree of polymerization of the proanthocyanidin molecules. Proanthocyanidins may prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing the risk associated with high blood cholesterol.

Proanthocyanidins are oligomeric and polymeric end products of the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway. Proanthocyanidins share common properties with other polyphenols, in particular their reducing capacity and ability to chelate metal ions. However, their polymeric nature clearly makes them different. They have a high affinity for proteins and their absorption through the gut barrier is likely limited to the molecules of low polymerization degree and to the metabolites formed by the  colonic microflora.

Evidence suggesting that dietary polyphenols, flavanols, and proanthocyanidins in particular offer significant cardiovascular health benefits  is rapidly increasing. Proanthocyanidin-rich  grape seed extract has preventive actions on diseases such as atherosclerosis, gastric ulcer, large bowel cancer, cataracts and diabetes. In human intervention trials, grape seed extract was shown to have preventive effects on the increase in lipid peroxides in human plasma after exercise and on muscle fatigue after  training. The anti-thrombotic effect of proanthocyanidin may be due to a direct  inhibitory effect on platelets.

Superb Antioxidants

Proanthocyanidins deserve their stellar reputation as antioxidants that quench free radicals and potentiate other antioxidants. In one in vitro study, the OPCs in a patented pine bark extract prolonged the life span of vitamin C by 400 percent.2 Another in vitro study showed that exposing blood vessel linings to pine bark OPCs boosted their vitamin E content by 15 percent.3 Grape seed has also shown recycling and potentiating effects. The test tube-based activity of vitamin E, in a system mimicking cell membranes, has shown enhancement by grape seed OPCs.4

A recent mouse study by Debasis Bagchi, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Creighton University School of Pharmacy in Omaha, Neb., also found that a patented grape seed extract protected tissue from oxidation better than the antioxidant vitamins C and E or beta-carotene

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