Brain Protective Effects of Proathocyanidins

Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Brain Protective Effects of Proathocyanidins
Once again, anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins found in deeply pigmented red and blue colored fruits show powerful protection to our nervous system and mitochondria. Recent research shows that extracts rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins exhibited greater neuroprotective activity than extracts rich in other polyphenols.

Anthocyanins and proanthrocyanidins are compounds found in deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables. Sources of these foods are blueberries and other berries such as strawberries, raspberries, elderberries, cranberries, bilberries, black currants, and blackberries. In addition, foods such as grapes, kidney beans, black beans, pomegranates, cherries, red onions, fennel, peaches, pears, plums, and peas also provide the antioxidants anthocyanin and proanthocyanidins. For those who are health conscious or who have a higher need for antioxidant support, supplementing grape seed extract and/or wild blueberry extract is helpful for additional protection.

These anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins have been shown to protect brain cells that contain dopamine from being damaged or dying as a result of oxidative stress. This is a tremendous resource for those dealing with neurodegenerative concerns related with dopaminergic cell death. Loss of dopamine may be related with poor motivation, tremors, movement disorders, and depression, etc. Anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins have also been shown to protect our cell's precious mitochondria from damage. When mitochondria are damaged, this can contribute to significant problems with physical and mental fatigue, dementia or cognitive concerns, mood disturbances, migraines, strokes, neuropathy, muscle weakness and cramping, GI problems, vision and hearing problems, blood sugar problems, and more.

Grape seed extract, a rich source of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, provides protection to the nervous system and heart by scavenging the harmful free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), hydroxyl and peroxyl radicals. Grape seed extract was also specifically shown to block ischemic insult and reperfusion in pyramidal cells of the brain. This is a type of traumatically induced loss of circulation that results in injury to tissue with the loss of blood flow but also when blood flow returns (reperfusion). Many times this type of serious injury causes DNA damage and activates the microglial cells and astrocytes into hyperactivity and more inflammation.

These microglial cells and astrocytes are the workhorses of the brain. They are at the core of the brain’s immune system and clean up from the daily wear and tear of brain activity. When these cells are overly activated and become inflamed, this is a problem. It causes more brain fatigue, brain stress, and loss of cognitive function and mood difficulties. Grape seed extract showed the ability to inhibit DNA damage and also to keep astrocytes and microglial cells of the brain from activating as a result of the ischemic trauma. This means that it stopped the damage before there were repercussions further down the neurological pipeline.

While these research articles focus on protection of nerve cell death, neurodegeneration, and mitochondrial damage from powerful stressors, it can also be surmised that on a lesser level of insult and injury, such as chronic daily wear and tear, having a diet rich in deep red, blue, and purple pigmented foods is vital to protecting our precious nervous system and mitochondria. For those choosing to fortify with nutritional supplements, Wellness Resources offers powerful protection with anthocyanins and proanthrocyanidins containing supplements.

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