Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock has heard of antioxidants and their power to help fend off disease and illness. Most people can even name some of the more popular antioxidant containing foods such as spinach, kale, lemon, and pomegranate. While we understand that antioxidants are good for us and necessary to promote health, not many people know exactly why we need antioxidants or how they work.
What Are Antioxidants and Free Radicals?
Antioxidants are found in plant-based foods and come in various compounds. For example, the coca leaf contains flavanols, wine contains resveratrol, and lycopene is found in some vegetables like tomatoes. All of these compounds are considered antioxidants and work on a cellular level to help slow down the process of oxidation.
Oxidants are free radicals found outside and inside the body. Our body produces them to fend off microbes and viruses but, in doing so, they also cause damage on the cellular level. When the free radicals interact with DNA or the membrane of a cell, excessive cellular injury or death can occur. The theory is that consumption of antioxidants will help fend off (or at least slow down) the damage caused by oxidation. While there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop the process altogether, there are things you can add to your diet to help prolong the inevitable. Antioxidants work by interacting with the free radicals and interfering with the chain reaction which causes them to leech onto the cell.
While there are many foods you can eat to help fight the oxidation process, recently one antioxidant containing product has been dominating the shelves at health stores – and that ingredient is called pine bark.
What Is pine bark?
Pine bark is extracted from the inner bark of particular European trees. While Pycnogenol is the most common extract, there are other beneficial pine bark extracts from other areas likes Canada. Regardless of which region the bark comes from, they all contain the compound called oligomeric proanthocyanin (also referred to as OPCs). These OPCs, which are a particular type of flavonol, were discovered by French researcher Jacques Masquelier in the 1950’s. He found that the bark of the trees lining the coast of Southern France had the ability to repair tissue and increase circulation.
What are the benefits of supplementing pine bark extract?
Pycnogenol has been proven to help in the following ways:
1) Blood Sugar Regulation – in a study performed by the Guang An Men Hospital of the Chinese Medical Research Institute, 77 people with Type II diabetes showed significantly lowered blood sugar levels when given 100 mg of the extract for twelve weeks.
2) Help with Balance and Hearing – because damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve of the inner ear can influence hearing loss and balance, prolonged use of pine bark extract may fend off the oxidation that occurs rapidly in this region.
3) Fights Infections – In a publication by Research in Pharmaceutical Science, researchers determined that the components in pine bark significantly inhibited the chances of E.coli, Staph infection, and Pseudomonas growth through topical oil application.
4) A peer-reviewed study showed that Pycnogenol optical use helped prevent skin damage from ultraviolet rays. The study also showed use was effective in slowing hyperpigmentation of the dermal layer.
5) Erectile Dysfunction – According to a Japanese study, the combination of Pycnogenol and L-arginine (an amino acid chain) were effective in curing penile impotence.
6) Reduces Inflammation – A study done in Turkey found that patients that underwent gastrointestinal or stomach surgery found no complications with inflammation if they ingested pine bark for ten days.
7) Athletic Prowess – Use of pine bark has shown significant improvements with athletes regarding muscle recovery and functionality. Performances were improved probably due to its powerful ability to decrease inflammation and pain.
Pine bark extract may be something you want to consider adding to your diet. Check with your local health store for this powerful antioxidant. Results should show as early as a few weeks.