Free radicals and OPC
Petra Friedrich – Veterinary Practitioner
Oxygen is essential for life. Without oxygen, life is not possible. We need it to breathe and it has an important task in metabolism. It splits the nutrients in the body and plays a decisive role in the immune defence. Due to its toxicity, it repels bacteria and other invaders.
But oxygen can also be dangerous. It is a substance with two faces. Oxygen molecules are not stable, they either have one electron too many or one electron too few, so they have at least one unpaired electron.
For energetic reasons, however, electrons strongly strive to appear as a pair. Thus, they try to combine with other substances in a radical way and thus want to create a balance. They are very aggressive and snatch an electron from other molecules. The damaged molecules can now no longer fulfil 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, preservatives, flavour enhancers, fertilisers, heavy metals and car exhaust fumes should also be mentioned. Radiation exposure due to increased UV radiation, earth radiation, i.e. radioactivity, but also mobile phone and radio radiation have also increased considerably in recent years.
These stress both our animals and us humans. Not to be underestimated – also for our animals – is increased stress in this day and age. On the one hand, stress leads to increased formation of free radicals, and on the other hand, a stressed body can no longer defend itself sufficiently against free radicals.
Enzymes as the body’s own protection
But free radicals are also produced in the body itself during acid metabolism in the mitochondria of the cells.
The body normally keeps the acid substance radicals in check with enzymes. In older animals, however, the body’s own protection systems become weaker and can no longer compensate for the excess of free radicals. Due to changes in environmental conditions, this now also applies to younger animals, as animals and humans are nowadays exposed to an increased number of free radi cals.
If the body does not have enough enzymes at its disposal, the acid substance radically attacks healthy body cells and tries to snatch an electron from them. If an acid substance radically accepts an electron, it is reduced, the body cell from which an electron is snatched is oxi dated. The release of an electron is called oxi dation, the absorption of an electron is called oxi reduction.
The role of antioxidants
Antioxidants are the opposite of oxidants. They protect the body from oxidation processes, i.e. giving off an electron. Antioxidants can reduce other substances. They reduce free radicals, i.e. make them harmless.
The antioxidants liberally provide electrons without themselves becoming free radicals. In this way, they protect the body, are able to repair cell damage and counteract oxidation processes.
OPC in natural veterinary medicine
OPC (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 parts of the body. OPC also strengthen the 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, so grape seed flour is a natural and rich source of OPC. 1 gram of grape seed flour contains 20 mg of polyphenols.
The dosage of OPC in animals is very individual.
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