Ancient history of grape plant
The grape (Vitis vinifera) contributed to human health for at least 6,000 years, without its role as antioxidant being recognized until recently. Egyptians ate grapes at least 6,000 years ago. Ancient Greek philosophers praised the grape wines about 3,000 years ago, without knowing that wines contain rich antioxidants. Chinese started to grow grapes at least 3,000 years ago based on written records. Europeans treated skin and eye diseases using sap of grape vines. Grape leaves were used to stop bleeding, inflammation, and pain, such as that brought on by hemorrhoids. Unripe grapes were used to treat sore throats and dried grapes (raisins) were used for constipation and thirst. Round, ripe, sweet grapes were used to treat a range of health problems including cancer, cholera, smallpox, nausea, eye infections, and skin, kidney, and liver diseases. Different parts of the plant including the grapes themselves, the leaves and the stems, all rich in a variety of polyphenol antioxidants have been used for thousands of years.
Grapes are native to Asia near the Caspian Sea, but they were brought to North America and Europe around the 1600s. This plant's climbing vine has large, jagged leaves, and its stem bark tends to peel. The grapes may be white, green, red, or purple, mainly because of the different composition distributions of polyphenol antioxidants such as anthocyanins and other flavanols and flavonoids.
Nutritional treasure hid in grape seeds for thousands of years
Grape seeds were treated as a waste product of the winery and grape juice industry. Red wine is manufactured by fermenting the whole red grapes including seeds and skins, saving some high labor costs to separate seeds. In the red wine making process, the OPC antioxidants from grape seeds leak into the red wine during fermentation, making red wine more nutritious. The red wine OPC antioxidants are derived from 3 sources: seeds, skins and soft section between seed and skin.
White wine is made by removing the grape seeds before fermentation, costing more due to the labor to remove the seeds. One of the reasons to remove the grape seed is that the grape seed antioxidant OPCs would make the wine colorful – yellow or light red during fermentation, although pure OPCs are colorless. White wine would not be white wine anymore if grape seeds exist during the fermenting process. White wine is found to be less nutritious than red wine, as white wine does not have the antioxidant benefits of grape seed OPCs. This fact leads to the wrong perceptions in the public that white grape seed extracts are less nutritious than red grape seed extracts. The fact is just the opposite. White grape seeds are found to have slightly higher OPC concentrations than red grape seeds. White grape plant deposits slightly more OPCs in seeds than red grape plant, while red grape plant deposits more antioxidant anthocyanins and OPCs in the grape skin than white grape.
Discovery history of OPC grape seed extract as antioxidant
For thousands of years, it was unclear that the super antioxidant property of grape seed OPCs contributes to the health benefits of red wine. The grape seeds were not deemed useful in the human history until 1970 when French Professor Masquelier made a gape seed extract as a super antioxidant, which he called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPC) and procyanidolic oligomers (PCO). He made OPC as 3 different extracts. Previously, Masquelier made the invention of antioxidant OPC as peanut skin extract and pine bark extract. A French patent was filed in 1951. He made this breakthrough of grape seed extract OPC preparation in 1970, after he conducted natural product research for nearly 3 decades.
Masquelier coined the name "pycnogenol" for OPC from 3 sources, peanut skin, pine bark and grape seeds. This world-most prominent OPC scientist later was deprived of his right in the commercial use of the scientific name he created.
A historical quote from Masquelier: "OPC extracted from pine bark is based on a patent which was deposited in 1951 in France (French patent no. 1036922 / date: 9/05/51; inventor: J Masquelier). OPC extracted from grape pips is based on a patent which was deposited in 1970 (French Patent no. 2092743; inventors: J. Masquelier and J. Michaud). The enormous scientific progress which occurred during the 20 years which separate these two inventions, laid the basis for the very exacting chemical, biological and clinical research performed with OPC from grape pip's.” October 1991 Martiliac, France (Procyanidines de France). Back to Top
OPC research as antioxidant heated up for the last 3 decades
Scientists have been more and more interested in the antioxidant property of grape seed extract OPC for more than 3 decades. The broadened interests and investigation led to the epidemiological theory of "French Paradox."
The French Paradox is about a low incidence of heart disease (nearly half that of the United States) among the French, although French have a high incidence of known dietary and other contributing factors to heart disease. Some scientists attribute French Paradox to red wine, which is commonly consumed in France. Scientific studies suggested that red wine and red wine extract contain rich polyphenolic antioxidants with the predominant content of oligomeric proanthocyanidins - OPCs. The polyphenol natural products - flavanols and flavonoids can promote cardiovascular health, but also have been demonstrated a variety of health benefits due to their properties other than antioxidants. Red wine is more nutritious and has stronger antioxidant activity than white wine.
These facts and findings drove French scientists to explore the OPC commercial values as grape seed extract and red wine extract. Grape seeds were found to contain the richest source of OPC among the 3 known sources by then. And grape seed extract has the highest antioxidant potency. These findings stimulated the scientific and technological advances of OPC from grape seeds in several different areas: 1, OPC refinement; 2, OPC synthetic pathways in plants; 3, OPC biological activities. There have been more than 1,000 published research articles, patents and research reports on grape seed extract OPC for the last 3 decades from a variety of sources.
French Professor Masquelier was a victim in commercial competition
From 1960-1990, the famous French OPC Professor and his group of researchers spent 3 decades in searching and refining OPC as a grape seed extract, as well as a pine bark extract. They conducted very challenging scientific experiments in investigation of OPC biological activities. During that time period, he established a union of 3 companies, collaborating in commercialization of the OPC natural products in the industrial scales. The two lines of products included OPC grape seed extract and OPC pine bark extract.
The collaboration was unfortunately broke up by 1990. The Swiss Broker, as a member of the collaborating parties, betrayed the collaborating union and initiated a separation by unitarily registering a trademark of pine bark extract OPC in USA, using the big pine bark extract generic name (pycnogenol) that was coined in France by the famous OPC Professor. This pine bark extract name actually has been used as a scientific term for the name of 3 different OPC extracts for more than 3 decades in the scientific literature. This Broker further changed to a different manufacturer, and accomplished a very successful separation campaign. The intellectual property of the world-most prominent French scientist in this field of science was hence ripped off by the Swiss broker, as allowed by the legal system of US. It was a sad story for all scientisnts that a scientist was ripped off in the fierce commercial competition. Such an important historical event in science deserves being memorized by every one who benefits from the pioneering discovery of OPC by Masquelier.
Vitaflavan ® OPC grape seed extract and
FrenchGlory ® OPC antioxidants as the new stars
The OPC refinement technologies developed by the OPC Professor, his colleagues and his associated companies, however, did not really go to the Swiss Broker and its new manufacturer(s), as the Swiss Broker had very little technical background by then. Consequently, the big trade name of French maritime pine bark extract OPC used in US is not associated with the original version of the pine bark extract, developed by the famous French OPC Professor Masquelier.
The OPC technologies and expertise for grape seed extraction and pine bark extraction were associated with the other 3 major collaborating parties – CEP, SCERPA, and DRT. On the other hand, although the big OPC Professor Masquelier claimed that only the 3 oligomers - dimmer, trimer and tetramer have the specified health benefits, the grape seed and pine bark extraction technologies by 1990 were far below the expectation that higher molecular weight tannins / polymeric proanthocyanidins could be completely removed.
After the breakup of the union, DRT started to independently conduct the grape seed and pine bark extractions in 1991. They invested in research & development of the advanced molecular separation technologies. DRT reached the goal of producing the world-finest OPC ingredients as grape seed extract and pine bark extract very successfully. Today, DRT Nutraceutics proudly publishes the very detailed OPC specifications and the OPC antioxidant potency of their grape seed extract ingredient – Vitaflavan® on its web site, which indicate the unmatchable quality in the world. It is the only grape seed extract free of high molecular weight tannins / polymeric proanthocyanidins. This Vitaflavan® grape seed extract has been formulated as an isotonic form in 3 FrenchGlory® OPC isotonic antioxidant products.