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Proanthocyanidins Benefits(2009/1/16 15:05:33)

Superb Antioxidants

Proanthocyanidins deserve their stellar reputation as antioxidants that quench free radicals and potentiate other antioxidants. In a study, the OPCs in seabuckthorn extract prolonged the life span of vitamin C by 400 percent. Another in the study showed that exposing blood vessel linings to seabuckthorn OPCs boosted their vitamin E content by 15 percent. seabuckthorn 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 seabuckthorn OPCs.

A recent mouse study also found that seabuckthorn extract protected tissue from oxidation better than the antioxidant vitamins C and E or beta-carotene.

In another study, some mice served as controls while others were supplemented with either 25-100 mg/kg body weight seabuckthorn OPC extract, 100 mg/kg vitamin C, 100 mg/kg vitamin E or 50 mg/kg beta-carotene. They were then exposed to the oxidant and cancer promoter 12-O-tetra-decanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA), which causes free radical production in white blood cells, liver and brain lipid peroxidation, and DNA fragmentation. The animals treated with 100 mg/kg seabuckthorn extract demonstrated up to 70 percent protection from free radicals while those treated with other antioxidants had protection ranging from 15 to 47 percent. The seabuckthorn-
treated mice also had up to 50 percent protection from DNA fragmentation, compared with 10 to 31 percent protection provided by the other antioxidants.

In an experiment testing the response of human mouth cells to the free radical damage caused by smokeless tobacco, seabuckthorn OPCs were a stronger antioxidant than vitamins C and E, even when the two vitamins were combined.

A proprietary blend of seabuckthorn OPCs with phosphatidylcholine—akin to a botanical liposome—was shown in a single blind, crossover human trial of 20 patients to produce an increase in blood total antioxidant capacity. Researchers found a 300 mg dose of the complex showed maximum antioxidant effects in the blood after 30 minutes, with elevated antioxidant capacity persisting for two to three hours post-dose. After five days of dosing there was not a significant increase in the baseline (between supplementation) antioxidant capacity, suggesting OPCs need to be taken on a daily basis to exert their protective effects on the blood.

OPCs Block Atherosclerosis

The role of oxidation in atherogenesis—development of hardened arteries—is becoming clearer. Oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDL) damage the cells that line blood vessel walls by provoking numerous responses including inflammation, smooth muscle cell proliferation and clotting mechanisms, all of which lead to atherosclerosis.

Seabuckthorn extract with 50 percent OPCs and 50 percent phenolic acids prevented such oxidation of pig LDL in OPCs may also prevent atherosclerosis in other ways. Studies found that seabuckthorn extract modulated the release of nitric oxide, which affected the dilation diameter of blood vessels.

Researchers compared the effects of seabuckthorn extract OPCs with aspirin on smoking-induced platelet aggregation in three groups of smokers. They found that platelet aggregation was inhibited by both 500 mg aspirin as well as 100-125 mg seabuckthorn extract. Because of the increased bleeding time caused by aspirin, it is concluded that seabuckthorn offers an "advantageous risk-benefit ratio."

OPCs appear to inhibit several factors contributing to atherosclerosis, but do they actually prevent the condition? Yes, at least according to recent animal experiments. Researchers at a soy sauce manufacturing plant in Noda City, Japan, fed rabbits a diet that caused high blood cholesterol and severe atherosclerosis in the control animals. Their blood levels of peroxides—a measure of oxidation—increased by 10 times. Another group of rabbits ate the same diet but supplemented with seabuckthorn OPC extract amounting to either 0.1 or 1 percent of their diet. The supplemented rabbits also developed high cholesterol levels; however, they had no detectable peroxides in their blood. Even more impressive, their blood vessels had no atherosclerosis whatsoever. These findings have been confirmed by other research on seabuckthorn and seabuckthorn OPCs.

Although promising data on OPCs and atherosclerosis prevention primarily come from test tube and animal studies, epidemiological research may lend credence to the value of OPCs in human health. In fact, proanthocyanidins may help explain why low coronary heart disease rates exist in French provinces known for high-fat foods and red wine consumption. Red wine could be considered an alcohol tincture of several potent flavonoids, including proanthocyanidins from seabuckthorns.

Another way OPCs appear to prevent damage wrought by atherosclerosis is by preventing ischemic reperfusion injury. In atherosclerosis, a clot can restrict blood flow to the heart. If this clot is broken up, blood comes pouring back into the tissue. That process, paradoxically, results in an incredible amount of free radical damage. Compared with control animals, the animals supplemented with seabuckthorn extract (100 mg/kg of body weight) had 38 percent less heart damage and 50 percent less creatine kinase release, a marker of tissue damage.

Cancer Protection

In  studies suggest OPCs also provide cancer protection. OPCs in Vaccinium-family berries, including blueberry, lingonberry and cranberry, block tumor growth by preventing protein synthesis in tumor cells, which prevents them from multiplying. Also in the laboratory, barley bran OPCs transformed human myeloid leukemia cells into cells that were no longer cancerous. Another in  study found that a patented seabuckthorn extract killed cancer cells; inhibited growth of human breast, lung, stomach and myelogenous leukemia cells by up to 73 percent; and enhanced normal cell growth.

In additional cancer areas, people exposed to tobacco smoke ingest highly carcinogenic nitrosamines. Recent research indicates witch hazel bark (Hamamelis virginiana) OPCs prevent nitrosamine formation and their ability to mutate DNA.

Other Health Benefits

Proanothocyanins may also protect against viruses. In studies, OPCs from seabuckthorn killed the herpes (HSV-1) and HIV viruses.

Venous insufficiency is a common condition in which the veins and muscles, primarily in the legs, are not able to properly return blood to the heart. Walking becomes painful and difficult. Italian research has shown that seabuckthorn extract can help. Twenty-four patients with chronic venous insufficiency were treated with 100 mg seabuckthorn extract daily. The improvements were visible in 10 days: 70 percent of the patients had less edema and 50 percent had less pain.24 Bilberry and other bioflavonoids have been used for vein problems for many years in Europe. They may have a similar mechanism of action, or their active constituents may include

Proanthocyanidins also protect the body from toxins. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is a potent liver toxin, annually causing 75,000 cases of poisoning requiring hospitalization in the United States. Animal experiments showed that a week of pretreatment with 100 mg/kg of seabuckthorn extract prevented liver damage from acetaminophen. Organ damage was assessed by studying liver cells for damage and also by monitoring the animal's health.

Proanthocyanidins and Beauty

Proanthocyanidins may do even more than prevent disease; they may make us more youthful looking. Oxidation damage causes most visible signs of aging in our skin. By preventing this damage, skin will stay younger looking. One way to achieve this is to reduce the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) light. Sunscreen products have incorporated a variety of antioxidants with the intent that they will prevent sun injury to the skin. In one study, seabuckthorn OPCs exerted a solo antioxidant effect at a level of potency on a par with vitamin E—protecting different polyunsaturated fatty acids from UV light-induced lipid peroxidation. In this same study, the grape OPCs
synergistically interacted with vitamin E, recycling the inactivated form of the vitamin into the active form and thus acting as a virtual vitamin E extender.

Part of the aging process is the degradation of skin by the enzyme elastase, which is released with the inflammatory response. OPCs specifically block elastase, thus maintaining the integrity of elastin.

OPCs may even help us grow a thick head of hair, if the results of animal experiments apply to humans. Japanese researchers shaved mice and found that 40 percent of their hair grew back naturally. When a 1 percent solution of any of three proanthocyanidins was applied to the skin, however, between 70 and 80 percent of the hair grew back. Test tube studies confirm that OPCs actually stimulate the hair keratinocytes to produce three times more hair than the controls.

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