Why this Tannin Keeps Your Arteries Flexible and Blood
Pressure Low, and the Best Sources of It
Proanthocyanidins, a polyphenols extracted from grape seeds, has scientists and nutrition buffs excited. Why? They are antioxidant powerhouse that also appears to provide major heart-healthy benefits.
Certain types of red wine (low alcohol, highly astringent varieties) are rich in proanthocyanidin, but it’s also found in a host of other foods.
All polyphenols, in fact, are great for your health. They work by scavenging harmful free radicals in your body, and evidence is emerging that these compounds prevent the spread of a number of degenerative conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
But there’s something special about proanthocyanidins that even trumps the much talked-about resveratrol (the grape skin compound that’s been found to extend the lifespan of yeast cells by up to 80 percent).
What Makes Proanthocyanidins so Health-Promoting and Unique?
Proanthocyanidins are, in essence, condensed tannins (the compound in wine that gives it a bitter flavor). They’ve been found to:
- Boost good cholesterol
- Help prevent blood clots
- Promote healthy endothelium (the tissues that lines blood vessels and your heart)
Studies have also found that proanthocyanidins limit production of a compound that’s responsible for hardening your arteries.
However, what makes proanthocyanidins so unique is their high bioavailability, meaning that your body can easily utilize it (unlike resveratrol). In red wine, which is one source of proanthocyanidins, the compounds make up as much as 50 percent of the bioactive compounds.
“Resveratrol is available at one one-hundredth or one one-thousandth of the levels of procyanidin,” says plant biochemist Alan Crozier of the University of Glasgow.
Procyanidin is a triple whammy for heart health, boosting good cholesterol, protecting your arteries from hardening, and keeping tissues and blood vessels healthy.
Crozier and his colleague, Dr. Roger Corder, found another interesting association when comparing two French regions that had an above-average number of long-lived men and wine production. It turns out that the areas with the most men who lived to be older than 75 years also produced local wine that contained four times the proanthocyanidins as other wines.
Dr. Roger Corder, professor of experimental therapeutics at London’s William Harvey Research Institute, is so enthusiastic about proanthocyanidins’ benefits that he says a “half a bottle of wine a day might keep the doctor away.”
Wine is NOT the Only Source of Proanthocyanidin
If you want to get more of this heart-healthy compound into your diet, you do not have to take up drinking large quantities of wine (or any for that matter).
In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, both chocolate (high-cocoa-content dark varieties) and apples (particularly Red Delicious and Granny Smith) have a greater proanthocyanidin content than even red wine.
So, if you’re looking to fortify your diet and your heart with the beneficial proanthocyanidins, start incorporating some of the following foods, beverages and supplements into your daily diet today:
- Fruits and vegetables (amounts vary depending on type, and researchers are still working out the specifics of polyphenol content in fruits and veggies)
- Green tea
- Peanut skins
In the meantime, if you’re opting to drink a glass of red wine, remember that the more bitter and astringent, the better, at least as far as your heart health is concerned. According to Corder, traditionally made “old-world” wine (with lower alcohol content and lower ripeness) is best.