What are OPC’s?
OPC’S are antioxidant compounds known as Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins that consist of bioflavonoids and polyphenols. Bioflavonoids are plant chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their natural bright colors. Polyphenols are groups of super antioxidants found in red wine, blueberries, purple grapes, green tea and other vegetative sources. Proanthocyanidins are a class of bioflavonoids found in a variety of plants such as grapes, pine bark, lemon tree bark, hazelnut tree leaves, blueberries, cherries and cranberries.
There has been overwhelming hype about all the great health benefits obtained from taking OPC’S. An abundance of sales oriented literature overstates these benefits for obvious reasons. Some of the literature I have read boasts that OPC’S can “cure” everything from cancer to depression. While it may be true that OPC’S have magnificent antioxidant capabilities far exceeding the effects of vitamin C and E, they are only part of a complex array of other antioxidants.
A commonly known OPC is Pycnogenol. Pycnogenol is made from the bark of maritime pine trees indigenous to Quebec, Canada and southern France. Pycnogenol is powerful and unique because it includes more than forty different compounds in a single supplement. The antioxidant properties of these substances are known to neutralize free radicals, protect cells from oxidative damage and prevent mutations of DNA that can lead to cancer. In his book “The Super Anti-Oxidants“, Dr. James F. Balch describes some of the functions and health benefits derived, in part, from taking OPC’S, Pycnogenol and grape seed extract. Dr. Balch explains that research demonstrates OPC’S effectiveness in slowing oxidative damage in the brain and other organ systems throughout the body. The action of OPC’S aid in protecting the body against the ravages of radiation exposure as well as chemical pollution from pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins. OPC’S are easily absorbed and work synergistically with other antioxidant nutrients, increasing the effectiveness of other vitamins like A, C and E. OPC’S help to prevent inflammation by reducing the production of histamine, thus decreasing allergic symptoms and reactions. OPC’S also support the circulatory system by improving the oxygenation of blood flow throughout the body. Dr. Balch recommends a daily dose of OPC’S ranging between 150 and 200 milligrams for optimal benefit.
It is important to understand that OPC’S, like other nutrients, cannot “cure” any disease, condition or create good health alone, but can be used as part of a healthy lifestyle along with other supplements to improve or extend your quality of life. Many people believe they can create good health by taking a pill. This belief is sometimes the direct result of the many exaggerated health claims professed by marketing companies to sell and promote their products. Most mass and multi-level marketed nutritional products contain low nutrient levels that have no therapeutic effect (well below Dr. Balch’s recommendations). They sell the positive perspective of an idea or theory with little substance at a very high cost. To put things in a proper view, learning to distinguish sales-oriented information from the actual research and having realistic expectations are key. Many times, positive results from any given study are overstated and accentuated in order to downplay the negative side, thus convincing you to buy the product or formula advertised. There is always a negative or qualifying side to any study. There is no magic bullet! If you take the time to research the scientific data about the purpose of supplements and their relationship to diet and lifestyle, you will quickly recognize the hype and be more aware of how to create whole health wellness for yourself and others.
I believe that OPC’S work best when combined with other antioxidants like Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium and the amino acid L-cysteine. There are many different types of free radicals that have various destructive functions. Antioxidants have specific actions and we need all of them to deactivate the variety of inevitable free radicals that are part of the life process. The sum of all health practices and therapies creates the whole. It is through this synergistic effect of harmony combined and balance that we achieve wellness!
A combination of proper diet, exercise and lifestyle management play a more decisive role in the state of your health than any other single factor. Eating antioxidant-rich foods, eliminating known toxins, getting regular exercise and having a positive outlook are the most important contributors to achieving and maintaining good health.
Make the following synergistic antioxidant blender recipes part of your nutritional routine along with your OPC’S and other health strategies:
Jay’s Antioxidant Power Smoothie:
In a blender, add one banana, a half cup of frozen blueberries (blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity), two cups or more of vanilla flavored almond or cashew milk, two tablespoons of lecithin granules, a tablespoon of raw wheat germ, three teaspoons of brewers yeast, two teaspoons of flax oil or three teaspoons of ground flax meal. Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy, thin with additional nut milk if needed. Drink immediately as a morning or afternoon meal. This shake provides healthy amounts of antioxidant phytochemicals, brain boosters, B complex vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, calcium, zinc, potassium, essential fats and fiber (an important component missing in most conventional diets).
Antioxidant Berry Sorbet:
In a blender, add frozen berries or a mixed variety of blueberries, strawberries and others. Combine frozen berries with orange juice and blend to the consistency of soft ice cream or sherbet. The antioxidant properties of the berries blended with the nutrients in the orange juice makes a healthful dessert or snack from this synergistic combination.
Photo: Visual Hunt