The Heartening Effects of Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract and OPCs may provide several heart-health benefits. The antioxidant effects of OPCs have been shown to inhibit cholesterol oxidation, a key factor leading to hardened arteries and heart disease. In 200, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center reported that a combination of OPCs and chromium decreased levels of blood cholesterol, especially LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. OPCs have also been shown to prevent the stickiness of blood platelets that can lead to blood clots and strokes. And in 2006, researchers at the University of California, Davis, reported that grape seed extract lowered blood pressure in patients with metabolic syndrome.
Convincing evidence suggests that there is more behind wine’s heart-health benefits than alcohol. In 1999, the American Heart Association published a study reporting that purple grape juice improved blood flow and decreased LDL oxidation. The authors concluded that some benefits of red wine and other grape products were independent of alcohol content.
Grape seed extract is good for the nerves, too. OPCs are one of only a few antioxidants that cross the blood-brain barrier and protect neural tissue. This may explain why OPCs help reduce symptoms in patients with nerve disease such as multiple sclerosis (MS), a syndrome of progressive destruction and hardening of the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves. It may also explain why patients taking OPC supplements often report improved mental clarity.
Since as early as the 1950s, doctors have observed anti-inflammatory action in OPCs. OPCs inhibit the release and synthesis of inflammatory compounds such as histamine and prostaglandins. OPCs selectively bind to the connective tissue of joints, preventing swelling, promoting healing and decreasing pain. OPCs also inhibit the enzyme responsible for producing histamine and the enzyme that facilitates the release of histamine into the body.
The antihistamine activity of OPCs also may benefit people with allergies and people with ulcers. OPCs have the ability to strengthen the cell membranes of basophils and mast cells, both of which contain allergy-causing chemicals. By strengthening these cell membranes, OPCs inhibit the release of allergy-causing chemicals, preventing overreaction or hypersensitivity to allergens. Stress-related ulcers are linked to excessive secretion of histamine in the stomach lining. OPCs help heal ulcers by reducing histamine secretion and by binding to and protecting connective tissue in mucous membranes.