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Grape Seed Extract

[Benefits of Grape Seed Extract | Grape Seed Extract as an Antioxidant]
[Cancer Protection | Cardiovascular Health | Stroke Reduction]
[Reduction of PMS Symptoms | Varicose Veins]
[Protection of Beneficial Enzymes | Other Benefits]
[Grape Seed Extract Versus Pine Bark Extract | Side Effects]

Photo of Grape plant.Red wine or grape seed extract? The dilemma facing everyone today. The French will choose their red wine. The herbalist will choose his grape seed extract. Who is wiser?

Also see Resveratrol Synergy: Cardiovascular Protection and Capillary Strength

Potential health benefits of grape seed extract include:

  • Grape seed extract reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Grape seed extract improves flexibility of joints and arteries.
  • Grape seed extract helps maintain healthy skin.
  • Grape seed extract fights free radicals.
  • Grape seed extract counteracts inflammation.
  • Grape seed extract enhances immunity.
  • Grape seed extract reduces varicose veins.
  • Grape seed extract contributes to healthy vision.
  • Grape seed extract protects against stomach ulcers.
  • Grape seed extract provides relief from fibrocystic breast disease.

Without the taste of a fine burgundy or the effects of alcohol. Oh well.

The active ingredient in grape seed extract is proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins can be found in many plants, notably pine bark and grape seeds. However, pine bark and grape seeds are not the only source of proanthocyanidins; bilberry, cranberry, blackcurrant, green and black teas, and other plants also contain this health-enhancing flavonoid.

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Grape Seed Extract as an Antioxidant
Flavonoids, the group of nutrients to which proanthocyanidins belong, have been well researched as antioxidants. Grape seed extract also has an impressive body of literature to support its antioxidant capability. For example, one recent study compared the antioxidant effect of grape seed extract to the "gold standard" of antioxidants: vitamin E. The results showed, in rat livers exposed to toxins, that grape seed extract anthocyans exert a protective effect comparable to that of vitamin E on liver cells.1

Of the flavonoid family, grape seed extract proanthocyanadins have superior bioavailability in the body and impressive antioxidant capability. Some experts contend that grape seed extract is among the most powerful flavonoids.

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Grape Seed Extract for Cancer Protection
As antioxidants, grape seed extract may protect against cancer. Scientists now believe that flavonoids in red wine account for the so-called "French Paradox," in which people with a high-fat diet have a surprisingly low risk of disease. Antioxidant flavonoids from grape seed neutralize free radicals before they can cause genetic mutations and cancerous changes to cells.2

A recent study on a related form of grape seed extract proanthocyanidin, called anthocyans, found that, in cells grown in laboratory dishes, anthocyanins produced the greatest tumor inhibition compared to the other flavonoids assessed.3

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Grape Seed Extract Enhances Cardiovascular Health
A 1993 study conducted in the Netherlands showed that as intake of flavonoids increases, the risk of death from heart disease decreases. This study was based on the dietary data of approximately 800 elderly men who were followed for 5 years. These men were a subset of the extensive study known as the Seven Countries Study.4

A couple of years later, the 25-year follow-up of the diets and mortality of more than 12,000 men involved in the Seven Countries Study was published. Again, there was a strong inverse relationship between flavonoid intake (from grape seed extract and other sources) and death from coronary heart disease. In fact, flavonoid intake accounted for about 25% of the difference in heart disease risk in the groups of men.5

Grape seed extract is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease through its antioxidant effects, as well as by preventing the binding of cholesterol to blood vessel walls.6,7

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Healthy Blood Vessels and Stroke Reduction
The heart is not the only part of the body to benefit from grape seed extract. Another study conducted by Dutch researchers called the Zutphen Study, found that flavonoids also protect the blood vessels. This study followed the diets of 552 middle-aged men for up to 15 years while tracking their incidence of stroke. The men with the highest intake of flavonoids had 73% fewer strokes than the men with a low intake of flavonoids. Black tea and apples provided the majority of the flavonoids in the diets of these men. Grape seed extract is an alternative source of flavonoids.8

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Grape Seed Extract Reduces Some PMS Symptoms
Edema, the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body's tissues, often results from malfunction of the capillaries. Research in animals shows that proanthocyanidins extracted from grape seeds can inhibit edema by stabilizing the capillary walls and preventing abnormal capillary permeability. The anti-edema properties of grape seed extract proanthocyanidins may be very useful in combating some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).9

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Grape Seed Extract for Varicose Veins
Grape seed extracts containing proanthocyanidins also appear to alleviate symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency. A double-blind study of 50 patients with this circulatory disorder found that grape seed extract quickly and effectively resolved their symptoms. In this capacity, grape seed extract may help treat varicose veins.10

Another double-blind study of 92 patients reports that grape seed extract, compared to placebo, significantly reduced peripheral venous insufficiency symptoms, such as edema, pain and cramps.11

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Grape Seed Extract to Protect Beneficial Enzymes
Grape seed extract plays a role in enzyme reactions. Research shows that grape seed extract inhibits many potentially harmful enzymes. Some of these enzymes damage blood vessels and could contribute to heart disease, while others contribute to the inflammatory process.12,13

According to laboratory research, pretreating the proteins in elastin with grape seed extracted proanthocyanidins prevents degradation caused by the enzyme elastase. It is thought that this enzyme inhibition could protect blood cells, blood vessel walls, and immune system cells from enzyme damage.14

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Other Benefits of Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract potentially affects health in many different ways. Research published at the University of Arizona reported that Pycnogenol (a patented pine bark source of proanthocyanidins) helped normalize immune function in mice infected with a form of HIV. In particular, Pycnogenol restored the activity of natural killer cells, which are the immune system cells that go on seed-and-destroy missions for virus-infected cells. The boost in natural killer cells could also prove beneficial in the treatment of cancer.15

Grape seed extract also helps maintain firm, young-looking skin. Grape seed extract protects collagen and elastin in the skin. The combination of collagen and elastin gives skin its smoothness and elasticity. Grape seed extract protects these important substances from free radical attack and enzymes that would otherwise degrade them.

Other evidence suggests that grape seed extract prevents ulcers, reduces radiation and chemotherapy side effects, and treats fibrocystic breast disease.16,17,18

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Grape Seed Extract Versus Pine Bark Extract
Grape seed extract and pine bark extract of proanthocyanidins (PCO) are similar. Both are excellent sources of proanthocyanidins: grape seed extracts are available which contain a total of 92% or 95% PCO, wile the pine bark extracts can vary from 80% to 85%. Although both sources can be used interchangeably, PCO extracted from grape seeds has emerged as the preferred source.

The overwhelming majority of the published clinical and experimental studies over the past twenty years have been performed on the grape seed extract, not the pine bark extract. Studies have demonstrated that the grape seed extract may be more potent and effective compared to the pine bark extract. This is because grape seed extract contains the gallic esters of proanthocyanidins. These compounds are the most active free radical scavenging PCOs. They are not present in pine bark extract.21

Lastly, it is far more economical to extract PCO from grape seeds than from pine bark. (They have to first catch the pine dogs and make them bark). As a result the grape seed extract provides a greater value at a lower price. Pycnogenol is a patented process for extracting proanthocyanidins from pine bark.

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Side Effects and Contraindications
Grape seed extract is considered nontoxic and has been extremely well tolerated in clinical trials. Grape seed side effects are rare. Those reported include mild stomach upset, dizziness, or itchy rash. No known grape seed extract contraindications. No known drug interactions.

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Reprinted with permission: Dolby V; Proanthocyanidins: powerful flavonoid neutralizes free radicals; Vitamin Retailer; Nov 1996

  1. Mitcheva M, et al. Cellular and Molecular Biology; June 1993; 39 (4); 443-448.
  2. Tanake T; Cancer; 1995; 75; 1433-1439.
  3. Kamer H, et al.; Cancer Investigation; 1995; 13(6); 590-594.
  4. Hertog MC, et al.; Dietary antioxidant flavonoids and risk of coronary heart disease: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Lancet; 1993; 342 (8878); 1007-1011.
  5. Hertog MC. et al.; Archives of Internal Medicine; 1995;155; 381-386.
  6. Rong Y, et al.; Biotechnology Therapeutics; 1994-1995;5(3-4); 117-126
  7. Wegrowski J, Robert A Moczar M; The effect of procyanidolic oligomers on the composition of normal hypercholesterolemic rabbit aortas; Biochemical Pharmacology; 1984; 33(21);3491-3497.
  8. Keh SQ, et al.; Archives of Internal Medicine; 1996;156;637-642.
  9. Zafiroy D, et al.; Acta Physiologiea et Pharmacologiea Bulguitea, 1990; 16(3); 50-54.
  10. Delacrois P; La Revue de Medicine, 1981; 27; 28-31.
  11. Thebaut I, et al.; Gazette Medicate; 1985; 92-96.
  12. Lagnie C. Semaire des Hopitaux; 1981;57 (33-36); 1399-1401.
  13. Detre Z, et al.; Clinical Physiology and Biochemistry; 1986;4(2); 143-149.
  14. Gibb C. Biochemical Pharmacology; 1987;36(14); 2325-2330.
  15. Jonadet M, et al.; Journal de Pharmacologie; 1986;17;21-27.
  16. Tixier JM, et al.; Evidence by in vivo and in vitro studies that binding of pycnogenols to elastin affects its rate of degradation by elastases. Biochemical Pharmacology 1984;33; 3933-3939.
  17. Chestner JL, et al.; Life Sciences; 1996;58(5); 87-96.
  18. Mertz-Nielson A, et al; Italian Journal of Gastroenterology; 1990; 22(5);288-290.
  19. Akhmakieva A, et al; Radiobiologia; 1993;33(3); 433-435.
  20. Leonardi M.; Mineroa Ginecologiea 1993;45(12) 617-621.
  21. Schwitters B, Masquelier J: OPC in practice: bioflavanols and their applications. Alfa Omega, Rome, Italy, 1993.

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Grape Seed Extract

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