The healing effects of grape seed extract; fact or fiction? There is a lot of interest recently about grape seed extract and it's chemical cousin, pine bark extract. Both these compounds are commonly referred to as "pycnogenol". (Actually, most of the pycnogenol sold is just pine bark extract) Where did the name and 'legend' come from?
The term 'pycnogenol' is a term put forth by French researchers in the 1970's to distinguish certain compounds in the flavonoid family from others of more common origin (i.e. citrus bioflavonoids). The compounds they were working on are called "flavon-3-ol" derivatives (oligomeric proanthocyanidins) and were found to be much more active than others in the flavonoid family. Hence the term pycnogenol was born. There are two main sources of these proanthocyanidins, pine bark (of certain European pine trees only) and grape seed. The reason for our choosing grape seed extract (GSE) is the same reason the French researchers have; it's cleaner, easier to refine and more potent per volume, 95% OPC's vs 85% OPC's for the pine bark. Also, grape seed extract can contain resveratrol, pine bark does not.
Bioflavonoids have long been known to enhance the activity of vitamin C, however, the pycnogenols or more accurately proanthocyanidins do more than just enhance vitamin C. Many researchers think that GSE actually helps vitamin C enter the cells of our bodies, thus protecting the cells from oxidative damage. What all do these souped-up flavonoids do? The research shows that they are indicated for use as an anti-inflammatory, help increase circulation, strengthen the connective tissues of our bodies and as a very high powered antioxidant. The latest research shows that those extracts which contain resveratrol, an ingredient found in the skins and stems of the red grape family, are capable of protecting against cancer and even treating it! "data show specific involvement of the CD95-CD95L system in the anti-cancer activity of resveratrol and highlight the chemotherapeutic potential of this natural product, in addition to its recently reported chemopreventive activity.", this published in Blood 1998 Aug 1;92(3):996-1002.
As far back as 1981, the French researcher P. Delacrois published an article in the French medical journal, La Revue De Med 27:28-31, in which he reported on a double blind study that showed GSE to be as effective in treating chronic venous insufficiency as any of the drugs normally used to treat the condition. Dr. Delacrois and his team also found GSE to be faster acting and provided a longer duration of symptomatic relief than the routine drug therapy. Drs. Corbe, Boissin, and Siou later published an article in the French Journal of Opthamol 11: 453-460, 1988, in which they had shown evidence of increased visual performance in handling glare and enhanced vision in low light conditions. They surmised that this was due to the increased blood flow to the eyes and optic nerves as well as strengthening of the tissues of the eyes.
More and more studies indicate GSE for the treatment of such common ailments as arthritis and allergies. We have seen remarkable improvement clinically with our patients in both these conditions. Studies, i.e. J. Baruch, Ann Chir Plast Esthet 4; 1984, have found GSE can inhibit the release of certain enzymes that promote inflammation. Other research, i.e. JM Tixier, et al, Biochem Pharmacol 33:3933-3939; 1984, shows GSE helps in the production of collagen, the glue that holds us together. As we age, we produce less collagen and which results in veins and capillaries breaking down and leaking leading to easily bruising and even to varicose veins. By strengthening the veins and capillaries we can improve the circulation of much needed blood to the cells of our body rather than it leaking out and causing those unsightly bruises.
Facino RM, et al in Arzneim-Forsch 44:592-601; 1994 gave us conclusive evidence of the antioxidant powers of GSE. In their study the researchers showed that GSE can prevent the oxidation of blood lipids (fats) which promote the formation of plaque in the arteries. This is good news for our hearts. Liviero and Puglisi in Fit other 65:203-209; 1994 found GSE to be a strong agent in counteracting spontaneous mutation of cells due to it's antioxidant properties. These researchers went on to say that due to the antioxidant properties of GSE that it could be rational to use them as a chemopreventive against many pathological situations.
We utilize the same formulation of GSE as was used in the research, a standardized 95% proanthocyanidins, in our Grape-Ogenol formula. Doctor's Nutrition Grape-Ogenol also contains resveratrol at 450+ ppm. This assures that you get the same product formulation as used in the research. Dosages used in most research were normally 2 to 3, 50mg capsules per day with some as high as 2 to 4, 100mg capsules per day, all in divided doses.
Below are some interesting tidbits on resveratrol: (published in some very good peer reviewed journals)
Am J Clin Nutr 1998 Dec;68(6):1208-14 Activity in vitro of resveratrol on granulocyte and monocyte adhesion to endothelium.
Ferrero ME, et al:
Institute of General Pathology, Centro di Studio sulla Patologia Cellulare del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Milan, Italy.
(According to this study, not only is resveratrol an antioxidant, it is capable of making the blood cells less 'sticky' to the walls of the blood vessels. This is very important in preventing heart disease.)
J Biol Chem 1998 Aug 21;273(34):21875-82
Resveratrol inhibits cyclooxygenase-2 transcription and activity in phorbol ester-treated human mammary epithelial cells.
Subbaramaiah K, et al:
Department of Medicine, Department of Surgery, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.
(In this study the researchers found resveratrol to be a very active COX-2 inhibitor. This is evidence of the antiinflammatory power of this extract.)