Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen, are frequently used by athletes in order to prevent musculoskeletal pain and improve performance. However, in combination with strenuous exercise, these drugs can contribute to a reduction of renal blood flow and promote development of kidney damage. A 50-50 blend of prof. Masquelier’s OPCs from Pine bark and Grape seeds was shown to mitigate kidney damage and increase the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory capacity in half-marathon-runners who took a 400-mg dose of Ibuprofen before the run.
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The Good and the Bad of Strenuous Exercise
Long-distance running, marathons and half-marathons, is an increasingly popular form of endurance exercise due to its beneficial effects on health and easy accessibility for recreational athletes. Running reduces cardiovascular risk, prevents development of Type II Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and neurodegenerative diseases. At the same time, competitive running puts a significant strain on the organs of a human body. One of the organs often overlooked in this respect is the kidney. But the need for increased blood flow to the exercising muscles causes a significant reduction of blood flow to the kidney. While these events are perfectly normal physiological adaptations to exercise, they may impair renal function and in some cases even cause what is called “Acute Kidney Injury” (AKI). Strenuous exercise also causes undesirable changes in the pro-/anti-oxidant balance and in many cases an excessive inflammatory response, both of which may increase the risk of kidney damage.
Anti-inflammatory drugs increase risk of kidney damage
In addition to the damage that may be caused by exercise alone, the intake of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has been recognized as a risk factor affecting the kidneys when taken by runners. NSAIDs reduce the widening of the blood vessels in the kidneys and impair the pressure required to cleanse (filter) the blood. Despite these recognized hazards, the intake of NSAIDs before and during a race is quite common. Their use has been reported by almost half of all marathoners and by up to two thirds of ultramarathon runners. In a study involving approximately 47,000 half-marathon runners, anti-inflammatory medication was documented in 8.3% of the participants. Despite accumulating evidence on the potential harmful effects of NSAIDs and the absence of studies that convincingly prove significant exercise performance benefits from taking NSAIDs, many runners still use them, with various motivations. Older age, female gender, competing on a longer distance, history of injuries and exercise‐associated muscle pains were associated with taking NSAIDs before and during long‐distance runs.
OPCs reduce excretion of protein and blood in the urine
In a study performed in runners who participated in the 2019 half-marathon “Venloop”- run, ([I]) it was found that a 2 week intake of a 50-50 blend of Masquelier’s OPCs from Pinus maritima (Maritima pine bark) and Vitis vinifera (grape seeds) showed a measurable tendency to decrease proteinuria (excretion of proteins). Proteinuria is a sign of kidney malfunction. The kidneys can no longer prevent the loss of proteins in the urine. In addition, and more importantly so, the OPCs blend caused a significant reduction of the number of runners who showed hematuria (blood in the urine). The appearance of blood in the urine after strenuous exercise shows an increased permeability of the small blood vessels in the kidneys. Evidently, blood in the urine is a very undesirable aspect of strenuous exercise. The investigated blend of OPCs appears to act on the small blood vessels that connect with the tiny tubes where the blood is filtered. The less frequent and less severe hematuria can also be attributed to OPCs-blend’s anti-inflammatory action and its tendency to limit oxidative stress and potentiate an antioxidant defense during/after exercise.
Why strenuous exercise causes kidney damage
The decline in kidney function during and after strenuous exercise is a well‐recognized phenomenon in sports physiology. To understand this phenomenon, we must take a look at the essential part of the kidney, which resembles a “hand-in-glove” structure. The kidney’s gloves are called nephrons, tiny U-shape “cups” or tubules, of which each kidney has approximately 1.5 million ! Blood is brought into these “gloves” by the vascular system, which, of necessity, can only do this by extending microscopically small vessels, the capillaries, into each “glove.” In the “gloves” the blood is cleared and the urine is collected from the “cups” and led to the bladder. Given the delicacy of the “hand-in-glove” structure, it is understandable that significant changes in blood pressure will challenge the permeability of the kidney’s microvasculature (the “hands”) and trigger dysfunction of the neprhons (the “gloves”). Kidney injury in runners can be shown by tracing “markers” in their urine. In addition, the stress of the exercise enhances the production of pro-inflammatory substances (cytokines) and pro‐oxidants. This works as an additional challenge to the kidney and many other organs of the body.
OPCs boost capillary performance and reduce inflammatory agents
As extensively described in my book OPCs, Dr. Jack Masquelier’s Mark on Health, the beneficial effects of Masquelier’s OPCs on circulatory health are well known and well documented. This is how OPCs help in mitigating the adverse effects of exercise-induced high blood pressure. Sports people who take Ibuprofen or other NSAIDs before or during the exercise or challenge must be aware of the paradox that, although these drugs are anti-inflammatory, they actually may increase a pro-inflammatory response. In the aforementioned study, which was published in the high ranking scientific journal NUTRIENTS, the intake of a single low dose of Ibuprofen was accompanied by a significant increase in the concentration of a prominent pro-inflammatory compound (IL-6) in the runners’ urine. Importantly, this increase was largely prevented by supplementation with the OPCs-blend for 14 days before the challenge. Participants from the placebo (non-OPCs) group demonstrated a significant increase in urinary concentrations of 2 other pro-inflammatory agents (IL-8 and TNF-α), which also tended to be reduced in the OPCs-group.
Confirmation of OPCs as well known antioxidants
During exercise, the body produces an excess of free radicals, which are by-products of the use of oxygen. Free radicals are helpful (they kill bacterial intruders), but when the body cannot neutralize an overload of free radicals, they become extremely destructive and can be regarded as the cause of most degenerative diseases. Overproduction even harms our DNA. Logically, the more strenuous the exercise, the more the body will produce free radicals. In the present study, the intake of Ibuprofen followed by the completion of the half-marathon was associated with an increase in a biomarker for oxidative stress (MDA) and with the ‘upregulation’ of the body’s antioxidant defense. The latter effect was more pronounced in the OPCs-group. Its members showed an increase in the urine’s “total antioxidant capacity,” which was higher than that found in the non-OPCs group. The level of the marker for oxidative stress (MDA) was less prominent in the urine of the OPCs-group. Apparently, they were more capable of dealing with free radical overload. These findings point to the tendency of an improved antioxidant response in runners who received supplementation with this OPCs-blend.
Conclusion of the researchers
“Results of this study showed that dietary supplementations with a well-characterized and standardized blend of monomeric and oligomeric flavanols [Masquelier’s 50:50 OPCs blend] ameliorates the renal dysfunction and attenuates inflammation and oxidative stress induced by the Ibuprofen/half-marathon challenge. In general, the results of this study point to the nutritional strategies that might be useful to reduce the side effects related to use of NSAIDs and exercise. Moreover, they can facilitate the further development of a human stress model, which can be applied for testing various nutritional interventions.”