OPCs: The Wide-Reaching Power of these Super Antioxidants

It is no secret that antioxidants play a fundamental role in maintaining optimal health. By neutralizing harmful free radicals in the body, they help protect cells and tissues from oxidative damage, thus defending against the aging process, cellular dysfunction and the development of various health conditions. Antioxidants have several subgroups, one of the most powerful being polyphenols. Within the polyphenol group are strong compounds called Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs). These naturally occurring compounds offer diverse health benefits, ranging from cardiovascular health to skin health and so much more.

What are the Benefits of OPCs?

OPCs are found in a variety of plants, typically concentrated in their seeds, bark and skin. Some of the most potent sources include green tea extract, bilberry extract, cranberry extract, red wine extract, along with two particularly rich sources of OPCs — grape seed extract and pine bark extract. Each source contains different OPCs, each offering unique benefits.

OPCs are primarily known for their antioxidant properties — studies have shown OPCs to be significantly more powerful than vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene in neutralizing free radicals. Yet, beyond their antioxidant activities, OPCs have demonstrated inflammation modulating effects, vasodilatory properties, and more. Increased interest in these areas has led to extensive research validating their numerous health benefits. Below are 6 areas of application with clinical studies behind them.

  1. Cardiovascular Support: Research suggests that OPCs help support cardiovascular health by promoting healthy blood circulation and supporting the integrity of blood vessels, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In particular, Pycnogenol brand pine bark extract which contains a high concentration of the OPC proanthocyanidin, has extensive research exhibiting its ability to improve blood lipid profile and endothelial function and normalize high blood pressure and blood platelet activity.
  1. Inflammation-Modulating Effects: OPCs have inflammation-modulating properties, which have been thoroughly studied in clinical trials. Pycnogenol pine bark extract was shown to inhibit the activation of the pro-inflammatory “master switch” NF-kB, as well as inhibit the synthesis of the COX-2, 5-LOX and FLAP enzymes. Additionally, by modulating inflammation and oxidative stress, OPCs enhance the body’s ability to defend against infections and illnesses.
  1. Skin Health: OPCs are often used in skincare products due to their ability to promote multiple facets of skin health. OPCs can protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by UV radiation and environmental pollutants, while also promoting collagen production, which can help maintain skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging.
  1. Cognitive Support: There is evidence to suggest that OPCs may support cognitive function and brain health by protecting neurons from oxidative stress and reducing inflammation in the brain. This could potentially help prevent age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative conditions.
  1. Eye Health: OPCs may benefit eye health by protecting the retina from oxidative damage and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration and other eye conditions. Specifically, Mirtoselect brand bilberry extract containing a potent amount of anthocyanin OPCs has been studied for its ability to improve night vision and adaptation to darkness, as well as improve symptoms associated with eye fatigue.
  1. Allergy Relief: OPCs have been studied for their potential to alleviate allergy symptoms by stabilizing mast cells and reducing histamine release, which could help ease symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and congestion. Trans-resveratrol found in red wine extract has been shown to suppress TXNIP and increase SOD activity, resulting in a reduction in oxidative stress, histamine levels and ultimately, allergic responses.
  1. Sports Performance: Some studies suggest that OPC supplementation may improve sports performance by reducing muscle fatigue, improving blood flow to muscles, and promoting recovery after exercise.

OPCs are present in foods like blueberries, chocolate and peanuts, yet one of the most efficient ways of reaping their many benefits is through dietary supplements. Common formulas include grape seed extract or pine bark extract; however choosing a formula with multiple OPCs allows them to work together synergistically, exhibiting enhanced antioxidant activity, providing even greater effects, and supporting optimal overall health and well-being. While OPCs have wide-ranging benefits, it’s always important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.


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