Grape Seed Extract (GSE): Proanthocyanins as a Major Antioxidant Booster

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It is first extremely important to note that grapefruit seed extract and grape seed extract are not the same things, even though they are both often abbreviated to “GSE”. Many who have sought out supplements to help treat Lyme or Lyme-disease related co-infections may have stumbled across grapefruit seed extract, and while they both have overlap in benefit, this is not the same supplement as grape seed extract – derived from the bitter seeds of grapes, compared to grapefruit seed extract which is derived from, you guessed it, grapefruit.

Now that the distinction is cleared up, we can explore the many benefits of grape seed extract, used frequently as a nutritional and therapeutic supplement.

Given the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flavonoids – of which polyphenols are a subcategory (and proanthocyanins belong in that category) – it is not surprising the wide array of health benefits that have been proposed in their use.

To break this distinction down further, proanthocyanins are compounds naturally present in plants and fruit. They often give fruit or flowers their distinctive coloring – stark reds, blues, and purples. Cranberry is another popular example of a fruit abundant in proanthocyanins (that also has many of its own benefits as a potential UTI treatment).

Polyphenols are a subcategory of flavonoids. Polyphenols are a group of plant compounds and nutrients that are naturally occurring and found in plants. They are known to have (and exhibit) a variety of different health benefits.

There are thousands of different types of polyphenols – flavonoids are just one type, with quercetin likely being one of the most popular examples. Grape seed extract also belongs to this subcategory.

These compounds exhibit strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are naturally abundant in nutrient dense plant founds, particularly darkly colored fruit and vegetables. Research indicates that different flavonoids confer different health benefits for prevention or treatment of disease, but in general they appear to reduce oxidative stress and chronic inflammation across the board.

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These two factors often play the biggest role in disease, cancer prevention, neurodegenerative disorders like dementia, and regulating energy levels.

While you can get these polyphenols from whole food sources, of course, it would be extremely difficult to eat the amount of food required to reach the kind of dosages that provide a consistent therapeutic benefit like those found in supplements.

So, back to grape seed extract.

Research seems to suggest grape seed extract, and the compounds naturally contained in grape seed extract may be beneficial for: cardiovascular health, poor circulation (chronic venous insufficiency), lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing oxidative stress and mitigating the damage from oxidative stress, supporting healthy brain-aging and preventing neurocognitive decline, inhibiting fungal and pathogenic growth (candida albicans or yeast infections), protecting the liver and liver function, and reducing risk of cancer as an anti-carcinogen.

Grape seed extract seems potent against fungal and pathogenic growth. Studies particularly looked at GSE against candida albicans, which can cause oral thrust, fungal overgrowth in the intestines, and vaginal candidiasis. In these studies, grape seed extract seemed to inhibit growth and total pathogenic load several days after supplementation, while clearing the infection after several weeks of use.

GSE is often used with other supplements like oil of oregano and Betaine HCL to naturally address candida overgrowth and candida infections.

GSE proved to be effective against other bacteria and pathogens, too. GSE seems to inhibit the growth of other common bacteria like E. coli, which is why it is often used as a natural alternative in food preservation. GSE was even found to be effective against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, staphylococcus, in lab settings.

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The powerful antioxidant compounds in GSE also make it a potential supplement for addressing liver and kidney damage. As the kidneys and liver often experience oxidative damage and stress (bodily processes, filtering things like alcohol, chronic inflammation) they are often more suspectable to dysfunction or disorder.

Kidney filtration appeared to be improved in those supplementing with GSE daily, compared to controls. As well, GSE seemed to protect against toxin production and free radical damage in the liver during research studies in lab settings. This sort of damage can be produced from environmental pollution, chemical exposure, alcohol, poor diet, viral or bacterial infection, and prescription drugs. GSE appeared to improve non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in GSE users after 3-months compared to a vitamin-C control. 

An important benefit as we all age is the protection against neurodegenerative decline and supporting brain health.

As GSE is an extremely rich source of proanthocyanins and other beneficial antioxidant compounds, it is believed to prevent cognitive decline. It seems to function as a possible neuroprotectant – one of the compounds found in GSE, gallic acid, can inhibit the formation of the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Other reported brain benefits include improved memory and recall (significant improvement in animal studies), lowered brain oxidative stress, lowered inflammation, preventing or treating symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s Disease including deterioration in memory, and nerve functioning.

GSE demonstrates cancer prevention benefit too with anti-carcinogenic properties – it has been known for some time that a high intake of antioxidants (including flavonoids and carotenoids) can dramatically reduce the risk of various cancers. In research settings, GSE was found to inhibit cancer cell lines in breasts, prostate, liver, kidney, lung, pancreas, and various other organs.

Likely the most common therapeutic use attributed to GSE, aside from candida infections, is for the many protective cardiovascular benefits associated with the compounds in GSE.    

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GSE appears to significantly reduce blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic) even in low doses, over a period of several weeks to months. LDL or “bad” cholesterol was also reduced, including reduction in oxidization caused by a high-fat diet. This is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. GSE does have blood thinning effects, so if one is already on blood thinning medication or taking aspirin, it is recommended to consult a health care professional prior to use. Those with any other pre-existing medical conditions that are currently taking prescription medication should always consult a doctor or health care professional prior to incorporating a supplement into their day. Otherwise, GSE seems to be tolerated well and safe in studies looking at prolonged use.

There is a considerable amount of scientific evidence that seems to back up the claims of grape seed extract (or GSE) as a potential therapeutic option for a variety of ailments or medical concerns. This is due to the extremely beneficial, potent, natural compounds found in GSE (and in many plants). They have a wide array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, some of which we just explored. It has been known for some time that these compounds are an integral part of our traditional diet and contribute to overall health and well-being. Diets lacking in these nutrients and antioxidants put people at a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes. Given that we can’t eat to abundance a lot of the foods naturally rich in these compounds, it makes sense for us to look to supplements to offer a natural alternative extremely high in the same beneficial compounds that are already naturally present in real plants and food.

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