The health benefits of OPC polyphenols


       Polyphenols are plant compounds found in many fruits and vegetables that provide a number of health benefits.  While over 8000 types of polyphenols have been identified, around 60% are compounds called flavonoids. In this article we will discuss the health benefits of the flavonoids called OPCs (oligomeric proanthocyanidins).  

       OPCs have strong antioxidant properties that can protect us from oxygen free radicals which if left unchecked can cause a variety of health problems.  While oxygen is vital to life, it also causes oxidation, a chemical process that causes free radicals (unstable atoms) to occur. While free radicals are used by the immune system to deal with viral and bacterial infections, free radicals are often created in excessive amounts that lead to excessive inflammation.  OPCs neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body.

       OPCs have been shown to interfere with the formation in the body of hormone like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are used by the body to facilitate the healing of damaged tissue by causing inflammation to occur at the site of the damage and by regulating blood flow to the damaged tissue.  However, when prostaglandins are produced in excess (a common problem), they lead to excess inflammation that can lead to series health problems. OPCs helps to prevent excess inflammation.    

OPCs and heart disease: 

       Studies have demonstrated that the consumption of flavonoids like OPC’s can protect against heart disease. Research shows that those who consume a lot of flavonoids in their diet have much less heart disease compared to those who do not. An excellent source of OPCs is grape seed extract.  Studies have shown grape seed extract to be effective in lowering oxidized cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure and lowering blood sugar levels. High cholesterol (primarily oxidized cholesterol), high blood pressure and high blood sugar are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 

       A study conducted by Georgetown University and published in the December 2000 issue of the Journal of Medicine, found that grape seed extract and chromium taken together significantly decreased total cholesterol levels including reducing oxidized LDL cholesterol.  Oxidized LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor in heart disease.  In a rat   study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Nutrition in 1999, it was shown that grape seed extract and chromium when taken with zinc, significantly reduced systolic blood pressure over the course of a year.

OPCs and cancer:

       While lifestyle and dietary changes along with medical intervention can place one in remission from having active cancer, such cancer often returns due to the presence of cancer stem cells that remain in the body. Stem cells are undifferentiated or partly differentiated human cells that can turn into different types of cells in the body. They can also fix damaged tissues.

       Cancer stem cells are a small subpopulation of cells in the body that can create a cancerous tumor. They have the ability to evade destruction from standard chemotherapy and other modalities for treating cancer. That is why one can be in remission and then suddenly have cancer again. Grape seed extract has been shown to not only reduce tumor growth in a variety of human cancers, but has been shown to effectively destroy cancer stem cells as well. Research at Baylor University demonstrated that the OPCs in French grape seed extract killed colorectal cancer stem cells. 

       A study at the University of Colorado showed that grape seed extract was very effective in slowing the growth of breast cancer cells. Research done at the University of Nebraska, Creighton University and Georgetown University showed that consumption of grape seed extract significantly reduced growth of breast, lung and gastric cancer.

       While OPC’s are found in a variety of foods, the levels found in grapes, especially red grapes, are very high.  Because of this, grapes have become a major source for the extraction of OPC's and the making of supplements containing OPC's.  However, some grape seed extracts in the market place have high molecular weight polymeric proanthocyanidins (tannins) which are labeled as OPC’s.  Such “OPC’s” are not well absorbed.  

       We recommend the tannin free French Grape Seed Extract from the company EuroPharma (Terry Naturally). This product contains vary absorbable low molecular weight OPC’s and has a very high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) rating. This product contains the VX1 form of OPC’s that has been used in cancer research.    

       At milk ‘N Honey we carry the Terry Naturally brand of French Grape Seed Extract VX1 called “Clinical OPC.”  We have this product in both 150 and 400 milligram capsules. We also carry the Terry Naturally brand product called Polyphenol Defense. This product provides polyphenols from French Grape Seed Extract and a variety of other food sources.

       When shopping at Milk ‘N Honey, ask for the free book entitled French Grape Seed Extract by naturopathic physician Gaetano Morello and the free book entitled The Power of Polyphenols by natural health expert Terry Lemerond.

       For additional information on OPCs and grape seed extract, go to “The Health Benefits of Grape Seed Extract (GSE)” on this website.