I want to connect with you about a subject that has fascinated me since 1990, and which has also become a key component of my therapeutic “toolkit” for the treatment of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders: oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs).
Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are potent antioxidant molecules found in grape seeds, pine bark, and other natural sources. Due to their myriad health benefits, interest in OPCs has been increasing. Human clinical trials have found evidence that OPCs may be effective or helpful for arthritis, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, migraine, traumatic brain injury, dysmennorhea, high blood pressure and menopausal symptoms (Cisár 2008, Panahande 2019, Trebaticky 2018, Navval-Esfahlan 2021, Hsu 2021, Chayasirisobhon 2006, Malekahmadi 2021, Suzuki 2008, Kohama 2013, Odai 2019).
For improving and maintaining brain health, OPCs have also been showing interesting effects. Previous studies have found improved cognition with OPC supplementation (Belcaro 2014). Animal studies have long suggested that OPCs provide neuroprotection, improving and preserving brain function during aging (Nassiri-Asl 2016).
A new study has found that a compound extracted from grape seeds improves the lifespan in aged mice. With supplementation, mice had improved physical function and increased their longevity on average by 9% (Xu 2021).
This report was published in the journal, Nature Metabolism, just last week. It describes a murine study that further corroborates the therapeutic potential of phenolic compounds for age-related histologic decline. As part of an international collaborative research study, a team of scientists from the U.S. and China injected 171 mice – 91 of whom were of old age – with procyanidin C1 (PCC1; a phytochemical derived from grape seed extract).1,2 PCC1 treatment was observed to increase the overall lifespan of the mice by 9%, and their remaining lifespans by 60%, on average. PCC1 was then administered to young mice and mice with cancerous tumors. Across the board, PCC1 treatment was associated with measurable health benefits1:
- Young mice treated with PCC1 over a period of 4 months had improved physical fitness
- In conjunction with chemotherapy, PCC1 was observed to shrink tumors in mice with cancerous tumors as well as mice that had been implanted with human cancer cells
In addition, grape seed extract is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that powerfully protects both the brain and body. The fact that study authors found that grape seed extract increases lifespan is just another example of some of the profound potential benefits that are possible with OPCs.
While there is certainly more for us to learn about OPCs, and where these incredible plant compounds may fit into a modern therapeutic arsenal for dementia and age-related neurocognitive decline, the available research is incredibly encouraging.
For further information on OPCs, and to explore other treatments that have evidence for preventing and treating cognitive decline and dementia, download our ebook on the prevention and treatment of dementia here!
Xu Q, Fu Q, Li Z, et al. The flavonoid procyanidin C1 has senotherapeutic activity and increases lifespan in mice [published online ahead of print, 2021 Dec 6]. Nat Metab. 2021;10.1038/s42255-021-00491-
Yirka B. Grape seed extract found to extend lifespan of old mice. MedicalXpress.com. https://
Cisár P, Jány R, Waczulíková I, et al. Effect of pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) on symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. Phytother Res. 2008;22(8):1087-1092. doi:10.1002/ptr.2461
Panahande SB, Maghbooli Z, Hossein-Nezhad A, et al. Effects of French maritime pine bark extract (Oligopin®) supplementation on bone remodeling markers in postmenopausal osteopenic women: A randomized clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2019;33(4):1233-1240. doi:10.1002/ptr.6320
Trebaticky B, Muchova J, Ziaran S, Bujdak P, Breza J, Durackova Z. Natural polyphenols improve erectile function and lipid profile in patients suffering from erectile dysfunction. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2019;120(12):941-944. doi:10.4149/BLL_2019_158
Navval-Esfahlan E, Rafraf M, Asghari S, Imani H, Asghari-Jafarabadi M, Karimi-Avval S. Effect of French maritime pine bark extract supplementation on metabolic status and serum vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and microalbuminuria. Complement Ther Med. 2021;58:102689. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102689
Hsu CD, Hsieh LH, Chen YL, et al. Complementary effects of pine bark extract supplementation on inattention, impulsivity, and antioxidative status in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A double-blinded randomized placebo-controlled cross-over study. Phytother Res. 2021;35(6):3226-3235. doi:10.1002/ptr.7036
Chayasirisobhon S. Use of a pine bark extract and antioxidant vitamin combination product as therapy for migraine in patients refractory to pharmacologic medication. Headache. 2006;46(5):788-793. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.2006.
Malekahmadi M, Shadnoush M, Islam SMS, et al. The effect of French maritime pine bark extract supplementation on inflammation, nutritional and clinical status in critically ill patients with traumatic brain injury: A randomized controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2021;35(9):5178-5188. doi:10.1002/ptr.7187
Kohama T, Negami M. Effect of low-dose French maritime pine bark extract on climacteric syndrome in 170 perimenopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Reprod Med. 2013;58(1-2):39-46.
Odai T, Terauchi M, Kato K, Hirose A, Miyasaka N. Effects of Grape Seed Proanthocyanidin Extract on Vascular Endothelial Function in Participants with Prehypertension: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2019;11(12):2844. Published 2019 Nov 20. doi:10.3390/nu11122844
Nassiri-Asl M, Hosseinzadeh H. Review of the Pharmacological Effects of Vitis vinifera (Grape) and its Bioactive Constituents: An Update. Phytother Res. 2016;30(9):1392-1403. doi:10.1002/ptr.5644