Vitis vinifera (Common Grape Vine) is a species of Vitis, native to the Mediterranean region, central Europe,
and southwestern Asia, from Morocco and Spain north to southern Germany and east to northern Iran. It is a liana growing to 35 m tall, with flaky bark. The leaves are alternate, palmately lobed, 5–20 cm long and broad. The fruit is a berry, known as a grape; in the wild species it is 6 mm diameter and ripens dark purple to blackish with a pale wax bloom; in cultivated plants it is usually much larger, up to 3 cm long, and can be green, red, or purple. The species typically occurs in humid forests and streamsides.
Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are some of the most abundant polyphenolic substances in the plant kingdom. Proanthocyanidins are an integral part of the human diet, found in high concentrations in fruits such as apple, pear, and grapes, and in chocolate, wine, and tea. OPCs in nutritional supplements are generally extracted from grape seeds or pine bark. Due to potent antioxidant activity, OPCs have been the subject of recent research, demonstrating anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and vasodilatory properties, making them a potentially valuable therapeutic tool for the treatment of a variety of conditions.
The Grape Seed Extract used in dietary supplements is derived from the seeds of the plant grape(Vitis vinifera L.).
Mechanism OPCs possess antioxidant, antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.
Antioxidant The potent antioxidative properties of OPCs account for their therapeutic benefit in disease states characterized by oxidative stress. OPCs also demonstrate potent, concentration-dependent, free radical scavenging ability. (9) Studies in mice show OPCs inhibit chemically-induced lipid peroxidation, DNA fragmentation, and subsequent apoptosis (indicators of oxidative tissue damage) in a dose-dependent manner in hepatic and brain tissue. (10) Human studies also demonstrate an antioxidative mechanism as evidenced by decreased lipid peroxidation of LDL cholesterol (11,12) and increased free-radical trapping capacity after consumption of red wine containing OPCs. (7)
OPCs appear to have an affinity for vascular tissue and strongly inhibit several enzymes involved in degradation of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, the main structural components of the extravascular matrix. (13) These effects are perhaps attributable to trapping reactive oxygen species and preventing oxidative injury to vascular endothelium. In vitro studies have also found OPCs increase resistance of cell membranes to injury and degradation. (14,15)
Proanthocyanidins possess endothelium-dependent relaxing (EDR) activity in blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide production, (16) and stimulate vascular endothelial growth factor, a signaling factor involved in initiation of wound healing. OPCs may also protect the microvasculature of the retina and increase visual acuity, possibly by increasing the rate of rhodopsin regeneration. (17-19) In a rabbit model of ischemia/ reperfusion, OPCs' beneficial effects were attributed to binding of copper and iron liberated from myocardial tissue, thereby reducing their oxidative effects. (20) The positive effects of OPCs on microcirculation are also attributed to their inhibition of LDL oxidation. (11,12,21) and decreased incidence of foam cells, markers of early stage atherosclerosis. (22) Grape seed proanthocyanidins may have a vitamin E-sparing effect. (23) A clinical study of 10 healthy volunteers examining the effect of OPC supplementation on markers of oxidative stress showed significantly increased levels of alpha-tocopherol in red cell membranes. (24)
Anti-inflammatory OPCs from pine bark decrease symptoms of chronic inflammation. In vitro studies demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects may be due to inhibition of peroxide generation by macrophages. (25,26) In addition, animal studies demonstrate OPCs from grape seed significantly inhibit formation of proinflammatory cytokines, interleukin 1-beta, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. (27)
Antimutagenic/Anticarcinogenic OPCs possess natural antimutagenic properties when exposed to certain strains of bacteria. (28) Although the exact mechanism is not known, an in vitro study found OPCs exhibit selective cytotoxicity for certain cancerous cell lines, while remaining non-toxic to normal human gastric mucosal cells and macrophages. (29) An in vitro study in a mouse skin tumor model demonstrated OPCs' inhibition of two markers of tumor promotion. (30)
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