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Free radicals and OPC

July 15th, 2021
Petra Remsing – veterinary practitioner

Free radicals – everywhere we read how harmful free radicals are. They promote inflammation, cancer and much more. But what exactly are free radicals? Free radicals are also called oxygen radicals and are nothing more than oxygen molecules. Oxygen molecules? But oxygen is not harmful, it is essential for life.

Oxygen is essential for life. Without oxygen, life is not possible. We need it to breathe and it has an important role in metabolism. It breaks down nutrients in the body and plays a crucial role in immune defense. Due to its toxicity, it repels bacteria and other invaders.

But oxygen can also be dangerous. It is a fabric with two faces. Oxygen molecules are not stable, they have either one electron too many or one electron too few, so they have at least one unpaired electron.

However, for energetic reasons, electrons are strongly inclined to appear as a pair. Thus, they try to combine with other substances in a radical way in order to create a balance. They are very aggressive and snatch an electron from other molecules. The damaged molecules can now no longer fulfill their tasks and become free radicals themselves. This creates a chain reaction of free radicals.

Formation of free radicals

The causes of the formation of free radicals are very diverse. In addition to environmental toxins in animal feed, drinking water and the air we breathe, these include preservatives, flavor enhancers, fertilizers, heavy metals and car exhaust fumes. Radiation exposure due to increased UV radiation, earth radiation, i.e. radioactivity, but also cell phone and radio radiation have also increased considerably in recent years.

These burden both our animals and us humans. Not to be underestimated – also with our animals – is increased stress in today’s world. On the one hand, stress increases the formation of free radicals, and on the other hand, a stressed body can no longer adequately defend itself against free radicals.

Enzymes as the body's own protection

But free radicals are also produced in the body itself during oxygen utilization in the mitochondria of the cells.

The body normally keeps the oxygen radicals in check with enzymes. In older animals, however, the body’s own protective systems become weaker and can no longer compensate for the excess of free radicals. Due to changing environmental conditions, however, this now also applies to younger animals, because animals and humans are nowadays exposed to an increased number of free radicals.

So if the body does not have enough enzymes available, the oxygen radicals attack healthy body cells and try to snatch an electron from them. If an oxygen radical accepts an electron, it is reduced, the body cell from which an electron is snatched is oxidized. The release of an electron is called oxidation, the absorption of an electron is called reduction.

The role of antioxidants

Antioxidants are the opposite of oxidizing agents. They protect the body from oxidation processes, i.e. giving off an electron. Antioxidants can reduce other substances. They reduce free radicals, thus rendering them harmless.

The antioxidants liberally provide electrons without themselves thereby becoming free radicals. Thus, they protect the body, are able to repair cell damage and counteract oxidation processes.

OPC in natural veterinary medicine

OPCs (oligomeric procyanidins) are among the most effective antioxidants. They enhance the effect of vitamins A, C and E, are rapidly absorbed by the body and fight free radicals in various places of the body. OPC also strengthen blood vessels and prevent platelet aggregation.

OPC can be used in horses as well as small animals for wound healing, allergic and inflammatory processes, cancer and many other diseases. In mice given OPC, life expectancy increased by 30-40%.

OPC are mainly found in grape seeds, thus grape seed flour is a natural and abundant source of OPC. 1 gram of grape seed flour contains 20 mg of polyphenols.

Please note that the dosage of OPC in animals is very individual.


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