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Proanthocyanidins: Powerful Antioxidants

Proanthocyanidins more technically oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are a class of flavonoids.

The discovery of OPCs can be attributed to Professor Jacques Masquelier. Dr. Masquelier spent almost a half century researching OPC. He also invented the extraction techniques by which OPCs are obtained from plants rich in these substances.

OPCs are found in many woody plants. The two most common sources of proanthocyanidins are grape seeds (Vitis vinifera) and the white pine (Pinus maritima, P. pinaster) of southern Europe. Grape seeds can have 7 to 15% more OPCs than pine bark and can be more potent as well as more economical.

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%. Another in vitro study showed that exposing blood vessel linings to pine bark OPCs boosted their vitamin E content by 15%. 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.

In the future, health care providers may hand out OPC pills as readily as they recommend aspirin today. A steady stream of animal and in vitro studies supplemented by epidemiological evidence and a smattering of preliminary human studies reveal numerous health benefits associated with these compounds. Chief among the benefits is antioxidant protection against heart disease and cancer.

OPCs can also be useful in helping to treat arthritis and vascular problems such as varicose veins, spider veins and poor circulation.

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