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'Breakthrough' study supports Pycnogenol's vascular benefits

By Stephen DANIELLS , 07-Jun-2012
Last updated the 07-Jun-2012 at 14:39 GMT

Daily supplements of an extract from French Maritime Pine bark may boost vascular health in people with stable coronary artery disease, according to data from a gold standard randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study from Switzerland.

Eight weeks of supplementation with Pycnogenol were associated with significant improvements in the function of the cells lining blood vessels (endothelial cells), report researchers from the University Hospital Zurich and the University of Zurich.

Writing in the European Heart Journal, the Switzerland-based scientists report that 200 milligrams per day of the pine bark extract resulted in an increase in flow mediated dilation (FMD) from 5.3 to 7.0, while no such improvements were observed for placebo. FMD is a measure of a blood vessel's healthy ability to relax.

Dr Frank Enseleit, the lead researcher of the study, said: “The results of this study show for the first time that Pycnogenol significantly improves endothelial function and blood flow in patients with coronary heart disease.

“The contribution of Pycnogenol for vascular health can be clearly identified in spite of patients’ complex medication regimen of blood thinners, statins and blood pressure medications.”

The study was funded by Horphag Research, the manufacturer of Pycnogenol.

The ingredient

The ingredient is a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine, and it is included in more than 700 dietary supplements, cosmetic products and functional foods and beverages worldwide.

Pycnogenol has been the subject of scores of clinical studies suggesting benefits covering everything from cardiovascular, joint, cognitive and eye health to the relief of hay fever, PMS, tinnitus, hemorrhoidal pain and menopause symptoms.

Commenting on the new study, Victor Ferrari, CEO of Horphag, told NutraIngredients-USA that numerous Pycnogenol-containing products targeting circulatory health and heart health are already available in almost all the company’s markets world-wide.

“Early research on Pycnogenol has been performed in the field of venous insufficiency and circulatory support. We are therefore extremely pleased to see these wonderful results in such a high end clinical trial,” he said.

“Today, good endothelial function is a true warrant for healthy cardiovascular function and the clinical results suggest that Pycnogenol will further strengthen its position as an ingredient of choice when it comes to heart health.”

Study details

Dr Enseleit and his co-workers recruited 23 people with stable coronary artery disease to participate in their randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either Pycnogenol (200 mg per day) or placebo for eight weeks. This was followed by a two-week ‘washout period’ before crossing over to the other group.

The participants also received statins, anti-hypertensives and blood thinners throughout the study.

Results showed that eight weeks of supplementation with Pycnogenol was associated with a significant increase in artery dilatation of 32%, while it remained unchanged in the placebo group.

In addition, levels of compounds called plasma-8-isoprostanes, which are a marker of oxidative stress, were significantly reduced after eight weeks of Pycnogenol supplementation, said the researchers, compared to baseline and placebo.

“After Pycnogenol usage, we were able to identify a significant improvement of endothelial function in individuals who depend on medications as a result of their heart disease,” said Dr Enseleit.

“Pycnogenol appears to help restore the body’s own functions in flow-mediated arterial dilatation.”

Source: European Heart Journal
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehr482
“Effects of Pycnogenol on endothelial function in patients with stable coronary artery disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study”
Authors: F. Enseleit, I. Sudano, D. Periat, S. Winnik, et al.

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