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Pine bark extract may help joints and hearts: Study

By Stephen Daniells , 11-Dec-2008

An extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree may reduce markers of inflammation in people with osteoarthritis, suggests a new study.

According to new findings of joint German and Italian research, published in the journal Redox Reports, supplements of Pycnogenol may be able to reduce levels of a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, sufficiently to prevent a ‘spill-over’ of the inflammatory marker from the joints into the whole body.

"The decrease of systemic inflammatory markers, particularly CRP, suggests Pycnogenol properties may be potent enough to arrest the spread of inflammation from osteoarthritic joints to the whole organisms" said Dr. Peter Rohdewald, a lead researcher of the study.

"When inflammatory processes are allowed to reach the whole body the degenerative processes may burden overall health including increased cardiovascular risks."

Indeed, CRP is reported to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular-related events.

The study supports and expands earlier results from other studies published in the journal Phytotherapy Research (April 2008, Vol. 22, pp. 518-523) and the journal Nutrition Research (November 2007, Vol. 27, pp. 692-697).

Osteoarthritis effects about seven million people in the UK alone are reported to have long-term health problems associated with arthritis. Around 206m working days were lost in the UK in 1999-2000, equal to £18bn (€26bn) of lost productivity.

Study details

The researchers recruited a sub-set of 55 patients from a larger osteoarthritis study involving 156 people with significantly elevated CRP levels. The subjects received either two daily doses of 50 mg Pycnogenol or placebo for three months.

Rohdewald and his co-workers report that people receiving the pine bark extract experienced significant reductions in CRP levels from an average of 3.9 mg/L at the start of the study to 1.1 mg/L after three months. This is equivalent to a 71 per cent reduction, said the researchers. Moreover, a reduction in the blood levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) of 30 per cent was recorded.

On the other hand, people in the placebo group experienced “only marginal and non-significant effects”, said the researchers.

“This is the first indication of Pycnogenol effects on CRP levels but the physiological mechanism remains unknown at this point,” wrote the researchers.


While the researchers did not elucidate the mechanism, they did state that the extract has been reported to have anti-inflammatory process. Previous studies have reported that the pine bark extract may impact on levels of the protein, NF-kappaB, known to be play a key role in some inflammatory pathways.

“Our study indicates the need for further investigation on the mechanisms involved in the lowering of CRP levels by Pycnogenol,” wrote the researchers. “Specific, targeted studies should be considered for detailed evaluation of Pycnogenol to local inflammation of osteoarthritic joints.”

Commenting on the research, Victor Ferrari, CEO of Horphag Research, told "We have now come full circle with regards to the understanding of Pycnogenol in inflammatory conditions. Three clinical trials with convincing results, further understandings ex vivo with regards to all inflammatory markers involved have now made Pycnogenol an ingredient of choice for joint health.

“The CRP data opens further applications in fields where we have proven to be very solid - cardiovascular health!"

Source: Redox ReportVolume 13, Number 6, Pages 271-276, doi: 10.1179/135100008X309019"Variations in C-reactive protein, plasma free radicals and fibrinogen values in patients with osteoarthritis treated with Pycnogenol"Authors: G. Belcaro, M.R. Cesarone, S. Errichi, C. Zulli, B.M. Errichi, G. Vinciguerra, A. Ledda, A. Di Renzo, S. Stuard, M. Dugall, L. Pellegrini, G. Gizzi, E. Ippolito, A. Ricci, M. Cacchio, G. Cipollone, I. Ruffini, F. Fano, M. Hosoi, P. Rohdewald

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