Grape seed extract is on my list of “must take” supplements. Here’s why.
Grape Seed Extract Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Proanthocyanidin (OPC), a powerful antioxidant found in grape seeds, grape skins, strawberries and French maritime pine bark, has anti-inflammatory properties which have been shown to promote normal blood flow and thus benefit the cardiovascular system.
OPC’s prevent “blood sludge” that can cause strokes and heart attacks. OPC’s work like aspirin (only better and safer) to prevent abnormal blood clotting. OPC’s may be a superior answer for those who need thinner blood (like people with arrhythmias), as a safer alternative to coumadin.
OPC’s are also called “Pycnogenol”® (a registered trade name) when they are derived from pine bark. The grape seed extract is slightly more potent and less expensive. You will see the terms Pycnogenol®, OPC’s, and grape seed extract used interchangeably.
• In one study, 38 cigarette smokers were divided into two groups and received either 500 mg of aspirin or 125 mg of Pycnogenol®. After taking these doses, each subject smoked a cigarette, which is known to increase blood platelet aggregation (blood clumping). After two hours, blood samples were analyzed.
– Both groups had greatly reduced platelet aggregation,
– But those in the aspirin group had increased bleeding times while those in the OPC group did not.
Other studies in smokers have also shown the anti-aggregation effect of OPC’s.
• In another study, 30 people were given Pycnogenol® and 10 were given placebo. People in the Pycnogenol® group had significant reduction in blood pressure, capillary (small blood vessel) leakage, and blood vessel inflammation, all risk factors for heart disease. There were no negative side effects or adverse changes in blood chemistries from Pycnogenol.®
Grape Seed Extract a Boon to Diabetics
(and those who don’t want to be diabetics)
Pycnogenol® benefits the cardiovascular system by decreasing inflammation and improving blood viscosity in both normal and diabetic subjects. These effects can be especially important to diabetics. New research shows that OPC’s have even more benefits for diabetics by helping to lower blood sugar levels and improving microcirculation.
• OPC’s were administered to diabetic patients. Leg ulcers (which often result in gangrene and loss of limbs in diabetics) healed 25%-29% faster in the group taking OPC’s. This is a significant benefit for diabetic patients and could help prevent loss of limbs that often occurs in diabetes.
• OPC’s have also been shown to help lower blood sugar levels. Researchers looked at the effect that Pycnogenol® had on alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates into glucose molecules. In this study, Pycnogenol® was compared to acarbose, a synthetic drug (sold under the brand name Precose) that inhibits alpha-glucosidase. Pycnogenol® was found to be 190 times more potent at inhibiting alpha-glucosidase, producing a greater delay in glucose absorption. At higher concentrations, OPC’s greatly slowed the entrance of carbohydrates into the blood stream compared to the drug.
• Another study showed that Pycnogenol® improved the level of microangiopathy (small blood vessel abnormalities), decreased capillary filtration, improved symptoms and reduced edema in 18 out of 18 diabetic patients, with no subjects dropping out of the study due to adverse side effects. There were no improvements seen in the control group.
• OPC’s have been shown in French trials to help limit the progression of diabetic retinopathy. In one study, 60% of diabetics taking 150 mg per day of OPCs from grape seed extract had no progression of retinopathy compared to 47% of those taking a placebo.
• Another trial including 77 subjects with type 2 diabetes, (half receiving 100 mg of Pycnogenol® and half receiving a placebo daily), showed after 12 weeks that subjects in the Pycnogenol® group had significantly lowered their plasma glucose levels compared to placebo. Pycnogenol® subjects were also found to have improved artery function.
• In another trial of 30 type 2 diabetics, researchers found that increasing doses of Pycnogenol® (doses of 50, 100, 200, and 300 mg) lowered blood sugar levels in a dose-dependent fashion. (The more grape seed extract, the lower the blood sugar levels.) Subjects who received 100 to 300 mg of Pycnogenol® had the most significant lowering of their fasting glucose levels.
Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Newsletter (it's free!)
Anti-Cancer Effects of Grape Seed Extract
Talc (talcum powder) increases “ovarian neoplastic transformation” (turns cells of the female ovary into cancerous cells). A recent study showed that Pycnogenol® blocked this talc-induced cancerous change in ovarian cells. PC’s have also been shown to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in breast cancer cells but not in normal breast tissue.
OPC’s reduce four factors known to stimulate cancer cell growth:
• Blood sugar levels,
• Insulin levels,
• Free radicals,
• And inflammation.
This means that OPC’s may be a potent factor not only in cancer prevention but also in cancer treatment. (See our medical paper on cancer diet and nutrition for full details).
But Wait! There’s More! (More Benefits of Grape Seed Extract)
If heart-protective, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer effects aren’t enough to make you consider adding grape seed extract to your supplement regimen, here are a few more benefits of this amazing flavonoid for you to consider:
• Anti-allergenic (grape seed stabilizes histamine release and so acts as a natural anti-histamine, without any drowsy side-effects). Asthmatic children who took Pycnogenol® were able to decrease their asthma medications.
• Improves skin elasticity by increasing collagen in the skin. For this reason, OPC’s are often used in skin rejuvenation programs.
• Prevents varicose veins by strengthening blood vessels and increasing collagen (same reason it helps improve aging skin).
• Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease by blocking the formation of beta amyloid (a protein associated with Alzheimer’s).
• Reduces symptoms of endometriosis. This was recently reported in Family Medicine journal; yet another study showing positive benefit.
I Don’t Know About You, But…
The proven (but non-FDA-approved, blessed or verified) effects of grape seed extract (aka Pycnogenol,® OPC’s, etc.) are just too great for me to overlook. I personally take 100mg, 3 times per day with meals and will continue to do so. The new research coming out on this important herb convinces me that I’ve made a good decision.
* Dr. Dana Myatt, NMD, is a practicing naturopathic family physician, educator, author, and speaker with a special interest in nutrition. Dr. Myatt lectures widely to medical and lay audiences, and hosts a website (DrMyattsWellnessClub.com). This information is reproduced with kind permission from Dr. Myatt’s informative e-newsletter – HealthBeat News. For a free subscription, click here.
1. Inhibition of smoking-induced platelet aggregation by aspirin and Pycnogenol. Thromb Res. 1999 Aug 15;95(4):155-61.
2. Pine bark extract reduces platelet aggregation. Integr Med. 2000 Mar 21;2(2):73-77.
3. Single and multiple dose pharmacokinetics of maritime pine bark extract (pycnogenol) after oral administration to healthy volunteers. BMC Clin Pharmacol. 2006 Aug 3;6:4.
4. Inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2 activity by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). Biomed Pharmacother. 2006 Jan;60(1):5-9. Epub 2005 Oct 26.
5. Diabetic ulcers: microcirculatory improvement and faster healing with pycnogenol. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2006 Jul;12(3):318-23.
6. Oligomeric procyanidins of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) effectively inhibit alpha-glucosidase. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2006 Nov 10.
7. Rapid relief of signs/symptoms in chronic venous microangiopathy with pycnogenol: a prospective, controlled study. Angiology. 2006 Oct-Nov;57(5):569-76.
8. Procyanidolic oligomers in the treatment of fragile capillaries and diabetic retinopathy. Med Int 1981;16:432–4 [in French].
8A. Retinopathies and OPC. Bordeaux Medicale 1978;11:1467–74 [in French].
9. Contribution to the study of procyanidolic oligomeres: Endotelon in diabetic retinopathy (in regard to 30 observations). Gaz Med de France 1982;89:3610–4 [in French].
10. Antidiabetic effect of Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract in patients with diabetes type II. Life Sci. 2004 Oct 8;75(21):2505-13.
11. French maritime pine bark extract Pycnogenol dose-dependently lowers glucose in type 2 diabetic patients.Diabetes Care. 2004 Mar;27(3):839.
12. Pycnogenol reduces talc-induced neoplastic transformation in human ovarian cell cultures. Phytother Res. 2007 Mar 14; [Epub ahead of print]
13. Selective induction of apoptosis in human mammary cancer cells (MCF-7) by pycnogenol. Anticancer Res. 2000 Jul-Aug;20(4):2417-20.
14. Nutritional and Botanical Considerations in the Systemic Treatment of Cancer: 2006 Update.
15. Pycnogenol as an adjunct in the management of childhood asthma. J Asthma. 2004;41(8):825-32
16. Stabilization of collagen by polyphenols. Angiologica 1972;9:248–56 [in German].
17. Non-enzymatic degradation of acid-soluble calf skin collagen by superoxide ion: protective effect of flavonoids. Biochem Pharmacol 1983;32:53–8.
18. Pycnogenol protects neurons from amyloid-beta peptide-induced apoptosis. Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2002 Jul 15;104(1):55-65.
19. Pine Bark Extract Reduces Symptoms of Endometriosis. J Reprod Med. 2007;52:000-000.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease and is not a substitute for personal medical care. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.