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Procyanidin: Why This Tannin Keeps Your Arteries Flexible and Blood Pressure Low, and the Best Sourc

Procyanidin, a polyphenol extracted from grape seeds, has scientists and nutrition buffs excited. Why? It's an antioxidant powerhouse that also appears to provide major heart-healthy benefits.


Certain types of red wine (low alcohol, highly astringent varieties) are rich in procyanidin, 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 procyanidin that even trumps the 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 Procyanidin so Health-Promoting and Unique?

Procyanidins 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 procyanidins limit production of a compound that's responsible for hardening your arteries.

However, what makes procyanidin so unique is that it is highly bioavailable, meaning that your body can easily utilize it (unlike resveratrol). In red wine, which is one source of procyanidin, 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.

Meanwhile, 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 procyanidins as other wines.

Dr. Roger Corder, professor of experimental therapeutics at London's William Harvey Research Institute, is so enthusiastic about procyanidins' benefits that he says a "half a bottle of wine a day might keep the doctor away."

Wine is NOT the Only Source of Procyanidin

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 procyanidin content than even red wine.

So, if you're looking to fortify your diet and your heart with the beneficial procyanidin, start incorporating some of the following foods and beverages 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

  • Cocoa

  • Peanut skins

Meanwhile, 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.

Recommended Reading

Six Disease-Fighting Super Antioxidants You are Likely Not Getting Enough Of

The Power of the Pomegranate: The 9 Health Benefits of this Wonder Fruit, and How to Eat Them


Napa Valley Register May 11, 2007

Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:2086S-2092S

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