Super Anti-oxidants: Grape Seed and Pine Bark Extract

Wouldn’t you be interested in an antioxidant that was many times more potent than vitamins C and E? What if this substance reinforced your body’s own antioxidant system? Don’t you want protection against arthritis, allergies, cancer, diabetes, DNA damage, eye disorders, and heart disease? How about inflammation and other degenerative conditions associated with free radical damage, including aging?  Such super antioxidants really do exist. You can choose either grape seed extract or pine bark extract. These plant extracts contain very powerful antioxidant substances called proanthocyanidins, commonly referred to as OPCs or PCOs (oligomeric proanthocyanidins or procyanidolic oligomers). Introduced to the U.S. in the late 1980s, these remarkable antioxidants have been the focus of hundreds of published studies in the last six years. Vascular Health In the body, PCOs gravitate to the vascular system, where they strengthen the veins and capillaries and enhance circulation. It is this propensity that also helps maintain the integrity of the retina (the part of the eye that receives images and sends them to the brain). PCOs’ action on the vascular system makes them beneficial to people with diabetes, too. Diabetes increases the body’s production of free radicals, increasing the risk of heart attack, nerve damage, cataracts, and blindness. Not only do PCOs quench the free radicals, but they actually repair the permeability of capillaries (those tiny threads of the arterial system). In five clinical studies conducted in Europe, more than 1,200 people with diabetes took 20 to 160 mg of pine bark extract (as Pycnogenol) daily for six months. According to Richard Passwater, PhD, the resulting normalcy of the capillaries “greatly reduced symptoms” in patients with diabetic retinopathy, maculopathy, and other forms of visual dysfunction. Dr. Passwater adds, “The visual acuity of treated patients not only stopped decreasing further but even improved.” Fight Free Radicals Aging has been described as a “proc-ess of enormous complexity.” With the body’s decreased ability to protect against free radicals, the membrane surrounding the red blood cells becomes damaged, interfering with the ability of the cells to function correctly. In one study, supplementing with PCOs (in this case, grape seed extract) prevented free-radical damage to these cells by helping maintain membrane integrity. Additional research investigated age-related free-radical damage and the role of grape seed extract as a protector of the brain and central nervous system. Studies showed that antioxidant status was improved and the incidence of free-radical damage was reduced. Although current investigations are limited to laboratory animals, that success is beginning to paint a healthy future for aging humans. PCOs for ADHD Besides having an impact on major degenerative conditions, PCO supplementation is effective for other health concerns as well. These super antioxidants have been shown to reduce symptoms of PMS, muscle cramping, and UV damage. They may also benefit attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost 8 percent of American children have been diagnosed with ADHD. Many are on prescription medication, which can be addictive and may have unwanted side effects. Recently, 61 children with ADHD took pine bark extract (as Pycnogenol) for one month. Researchers observed a significant reduction in hyperactivity as well as improvement in attention, concentration, and motor-visual coordination. (The children’s scores returned to baseline a month after supplementation was discontinued.) The positive results of this study are good news for parents who seek a safe, natural solution for their children. Whether sourced from grape seeds or pine bark, the benefits of these antioxidants have people talking about PCOs.