I’ve only recently been introduced to OPC nutritional supplements. They’ve been around for over 50 years – why haven’t I heard of them before? From what I’ve been reading, they sound like the next great frontier in anti-aging nutritional supplements.
If you are new to OPCs, here is a brief synopsis: OPC stands for oligomeric proanthocyanidins and is a molecular compound that is extracted from pine bark and grape seeds. Jacques Masquelier from France received the patent for the pine bark extraction in 1951 and then from grape seeds in 1970. In 1985, he got a US patent for his OPC.
Why should you care about the history of OPCs? Because whenever a good thing is discovered, there are always new products developed that claim to be the same thing, but really aren’t. More about that later.
As expected with any research on nutritional supplements, there are widely conflicting reports on what OPCs can do. Here is a list of some of the claims I read:
Prevents heart attacks and strokes
Strengthens capillary walls
Reduces varicose veins
Relieves leg cramps & pains
Protects smokers from oxidative stress (lowered risk of heart attacks)
Reduces swelling and edema
Improves collagen and helps with the following ailments
Impaired vision & macular degeneration
Seriously, can it REALLY do all that? How come everyone isn’t taking this miracle supplement? Here’s what the sources DO agree on:
OPCs are powerful antioxidants.
There is plenty of debate on the health benefits of antioxidants. I won’t go into that here. If you believe in antioxidants to help combat the damage of free radicals, then OPCs should be on your shopping list of nutritional supplements. This is one supplement you’ll have to pop the pill for. I doubt you can eat enough pine bark and grape seeds to get the full benefit of OPCs.
They seem to provide relief from problems associated with varicose veins. This was one study that seemed pretty conclusive.
Swelling from surgery or injury
OPCs seemed to reduce the swelling from surgery in breast cancer patients, facial surgery patients and sports injuries. You can see the possibilities here.
Gingivitis and plaque formation
They used an OPC gum for this study, but it seemed to work pretty well on the test subjects.
Blood clots after long plane rides
They found it significantly reduced the risk of blood clots on plane rides around 8 hours long.
What about all the other claims? Although testing has been done on many of the claims, sometimes the results were in animal studies or evidence SUGGESTS that a benefit may be there but there is no DIRECT evidence. So does that mean it doesn’t work on all those other claims? Not at all. Medical testing is a slow and arduous task. As with all supplementation, proceed with caution and follow directions for use.
Are they safe? Apparently, yes. They are considered non-toxic. Side effects are pretty rare and can include digestive distress or an allergic reaction. One thing to note: if you take a blood-thinning drug, you should consult your doctor first. High doses of OPCs may have some anticoagulant properties.
Are all OPCs the same? Apparently not, although that doesn’t mean you won’t get some benefit from the various brands of OPCs. I would suggest you look for OPCs endorsed by or with Masquelier’s name on them. It is a patented product, so you should be using the original patented formula. Currently there are several places on the internet to find them. See the website below for sources.