OPC is the abbreviation for the name of the secondary plant substance “Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins”. These are flavanols of biological origin obtained from plants. OPC was discovered in 1984 by Jack Masquelier in the course of a study on peanut skins. After administering the fine cuticles that encase peanuts within their shells to animals, he noted relief from venous disease. After a detailed study of the constituents of peanut hulls, he isolated the compound responsible for this and gave it the name OPC.
Occurrence of OPC in nature
In addition to peanut skins, OPC has also been found in grape seeds, the skin of red grapes, red wine, white wine (although in much lower concentrations than in red wine), coconuts, wild blackberries and raspberries, garlic, rose hips, and apples. Thus, as a component of the human diet, OPC plays a significant role. (Medicinal) herbs and fruits that taste tart or have a bitter aftertaste, such as grape seeds, garlic or rosehip, owe their effect primarily to their high content of OPC.
Apart from fruits, OPC is also found in the leaves of red grapes, the foliage of the gingko tree, larch wood, and the outer layers of the maritime pine (also called maritime pine). Whether the plants are suitable for consumption or not, the highest concentrations of OPC occur in the bark or roots, tubers, leaves and needles of trees and in the skin of fruits, where they can best perform their primary functions. Accordingly, the primary function of OPC is to protect the plant or its fruit from damaging UV rays and negative weather effects, as well as from unwanted consumption by animals.
Biological effect of OP
The protective properties that make OPC so valuable for the plant also have positive effects on the health of the human body, especially in combination with various other substances. OPC is absorbed within seconds through the oral mucosa, stomach and intestines and is detectable in the blood after a few minutes. Its components are so small that they can also reach the brain and spinal cord, where they can develop their health-boosting properties.
The biological effect of OPC on the human body is not one hundred percent scientifically proven. Research is complicated by the fact that OPC taken in through food is altered by metabolism and OPC in the bloodstream therefore has a different chemical composition. In part, OPC is already decomposed in the intestine by bacteria, which may give rise to further metabolic products that cause the positive effects on the human organism.
Nevertheless, OPC is used as a component of various dietary supplements, whose propagated support of physical health is, however, not completely scientifically proven. For this reason, OPC-containing products cannot be called medicinal products.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
OPC has a positive effect on the immune system and general well-being due to its antioxidant effect. Antioxidants bind the free radicals, which are produced as a waste product in the process of metabolism and can damage all the cells of the body if the number is too large. Also, stored toxins, such as heavy metals caused by air pollution, or pesticides that enter the body through food, are more quickly eliminated with the support of OPC. OPC also regulates the production of histamine and thus reduces the risk of inflammation, which among other things contributes to faster wound healing.
With the elimination of free radicals and due to the detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties of OPC, the body is left with enough energy to fight invading pathogens and repair and renew damaged cells, slowing down the aging process. OPC therefore contributes to the health of the whole organism and to a youthful appearance. In the cosmetic industry, OPC, especially as grape seed extract is touted as a fountain of youth and natural face-lift that makes wrinkles and cellulite disappear and skin become firm and elastic.
According to studies, OPC above a certain dose can also inhibit the growth of cancer cells, as observed in colon carcinomas. Animal studies have also found that OPC from grape seeds can prevent or at least delay the characteristic memory lapses of an emerging Alzheimer’s disease.
Interaction of OPC with other substances
OPC can possibly be seen as an enhancer of the effects of vitamins A, C, and E, and conversely, its effects can also be strengthened by other substances. A large proportion of OPC-containing plants also contain ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which is structurally very similar to OPC. Similar to vitamin C, OPC can be taken as a dietary supplement over a long period of time. An overdose of OPC is – again similar to vitamin C – hardly possible in the human organism.
Together with the bioflavonoid taxifolin, OPC has been perceived as a promising substance in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The two active substances in symbiosis dilate and stabilize the vessels, lower blood pressure, have an enhanced antioxidant effect and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.