ProanthoCyanidolic Oligomers (PCOs) have been touted as powerful antioxidants. Clinical science has proven they can help treat a number of conditions, from heart disease to cancer to ageing skin. There is also good clinical evidence that PCOs can help treat chronic venous insufficiency and edema.
Major health benefits of PCOs for the Human Body
Besides many other health benefits, there three major benefits of a frequent PCO consumption for the human body are:
- Powerful antioxidant cell protection from harmful free radical molecules
- Strong vascular and capillary support – essential for nutrient delivery and cellular waste removal
- Potent skin collagen protection from collagen degradation
Nature's strongest PCOs are being found in Grape Seed and Pine Bark extracts
Vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid, and OPCs are highly concentrated in grape seeds and pine bark extracts. Lower concentrations of these compounds are also available in the skin of the grape, as well as kiwi, cherries, apples, tomatoes etc..
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Today, standardized PCOs may be used to treat a range of health problems related to free radical damage, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. PCOs has also been shown to protect against bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus. Some studies, mostly in animals, support these uses.
Flavonoids found in especially grape seed PCOs may help to protect the heart by lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol. The so called "French paradox" is the belief that drinking wine protects people living in France from developing heart disease at the high rates seen in people living in the United States. So far, however, there is no clear evidence that taking grape seed extract helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Some researchers speculate that the alcohol in the wine, not the flavonoids, could be responsible for any healthful effects. Others think it could be the combination of alcohol and flavonoids.
Drinking alcohol to protect against heart disease is not advocated by the American Heart Association and other organizations because of the potential for addiction and other serious problems, such as car accidents and the increased risk of hypertension, liver disease, breast cancer, and weight gain. If you do drink red wine, you should have no more than 2 glasses (20 g ethanol) per day if you are a man, and no more than 1 glass per day if you are a woman.
Chronic venous insufficiency
In chronic venous insufficiency, blood pools in the legs, causing pain, swelling, fatigue, and visible veins. A number of high quality studies have shown that PCOs from grape seed can reduce symptoms.
Edema, swelling caused by surgery or an injury, seems to go away faster when people take PCOs frequently. Edema is common after breast cancer surgery, and one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that breast cancer patients who took 600 mg of PCO daily after surgery for 6 months had less edema and pain than those who took placebo. Another study found that people who took PCOs after experiencing a sports injury had less swelling than those who took placebo.
There is enough clinical evidence to say that taking PCOs can lower cholesterol. A study of 40 people with high cholesterol looked at whether taking grape seed and pine bark extracts, chromium, a combination of both, or placebo for 2 months would lower cholesterol. The combination of grape seed extract and pine bark extract was more effective than either grape seed alone or placebo in lowering total and LDL cholesterol.
Another study looked at the effects of a proprietary PCO complex on lipid peroxidation (the breakdown of fats in the blood) in a group of heavy smokers. In the study, 24 healthy male smokers (aged 50 years or older) took either placebo or 2 capsules (75 mg of a grape seed and pine bark procyanidin extracts and soy phosphatidalcholine), twice daily for 4 weeks. LDL cholesterol levels were lower in those taking the grape seed supplement than those taking placebo.
High blood pressure
Theoretically, grape seed and pine bark PCOs might help treat hypertension or high blood pressure. Antioxidants, like the ones found in grape seed and pine bark, help protect blood vessels from damage. Damaged blood vessels can lead to higher blood pressure. In several clinical studies, PCOs substantially reduced blood pressure. More research is needed to determine whether PCO helps people with high blood pressure.
Studies have found that grape seed and pine bark extract PCOs may prevent the growth of breast, stomach, colon, prostate, and lung cancer cells in test tubes. Antioxidants, such as those found in grape seed and pine bark extract, may help reduce the risk of developing cancer. PCOs may also help prevent damage to human liver cells caused by chemotherapy medications.
ProanthoCyanidolic Oligomers (PCOs) are sometimes suggested for the following, although clinical evidence needs still more work:
- Alzheimer disease
- Diabetes (improving blood sugar control)
- Improving night vision
- Protecting collagen and elastin in skin (anti-aging)
- Treating hemorrhoids
- Protecting against oxidative rancidity and bacterial pathogens