Grape seeds are rich in antioxidants and oligomeric proanthroyanidin complexes (OPCs) that confer its health benefits. The grape seed extract (GSE) is derived from the seeds, pulp and white membranes of a grape fruit. GSE is made by mixing grape fruit seeds and pulp into a highly acidic liquid. The health benefit effects of the extract were discovered by Jacob Harich an American immunologist in the year 1972. GSE encompasses a mixture of flavonoids linoleic acid, vitamin E and phenolic procyanidins. However, the most active agents of the GSE are the Oligomeric procyanidins (OPCS) or polyphenols. All these are important in protection of the blood vessels and cells from damage. Action on the blood vessels helps maintain an optimal blood pressure. Also, dilates the blood vessels thus reducing pressure. On the other hand, OPCs play a key role in the counteraction of free radicals produced in the body due to their antioxidative property. They also inhibit lipid peroxidation courtesy of the OPCs. This is essential in maintaining a good health and longevity as it prevents premature aging.
Compounds known as polyphenols namely, limonoids and naringenin present in GSE are responsible for enhancing the immune system. It also aids in reducing swelling as a result of injuries. The ability of GSE extract to potentiate vitamin C activity also contributes to its immune-supportive function.
Another role of GSE is that it improves the health of the skin as it acts as an alpha hydroxyl acid compound that is easily absorbed by the skin. Polyphenols are the compounds responsible for the improvement in skin elasticity as they are excellent binders of collagen fibers thus helping improve the condition of connective tissues and thus generally maintaining the elasticity of the skin, joints, arteries, and other connective tissues. Additionally, polyphenols are responsible for the radical scavenging ability. These neutralize the harmful singlet oxygen radicals in the body thus inhibiting unwanted inflammation and damage to the cells (Mielnik et al., 2006). Inhibit platelet aggregation thus preventing formation of clots. The flavonoids which are the most common group of polyphenolic compounds in grapes are responsible for counteracting the LDL molecules in the body thus contributing to good vascular health as it prevents clogging in vessels especially arteries.
OPCs in grape seed extract also protect the body cells from damage and unregulated multiplication through the antioxidative effect. This also reduces oxidative stress and preserves mitochondrial function to facilitate energy production by the body cells. It also boosts the wound healing process making it heal faster and reducing scar formation. According to research, proanthocyanidin a type of polypehnol is quickens the wound healing due to its antioxidant property. Additionally, the alpha hydroxyl acid component of GSE improves the moisture barrier of the skin cells aiding in the regeneration process. The cells are able to retain enough moisture for a fresh appearance.
Grape seed extract also contains high levels of procyanadin dimmers that inhibit the enzyme aromatase to regulate cell growth hence normal growth and development. It also improves flexibility in joints, blood vessels and body tissues and organs such as the heart. Animal studies have shown that grape seed extract is important for maintaining bone strength. It improves bone formation and strength that helps regulate skeletal growth.
Lastly, GSE has the ability to relax blood vessels thus enabling the control of blood pressure. This function is facilitated by the presence of high concentrations of oligomeric procyanidins in the grape seed extract that stimulate the relaxation of arteries thus controlling the blood pressure. This also confers preventive and therapeutic function in maintenance of cognitive function as blood flow to the brain is increased.