Ronald Watson, from the University of Arizona, writes that different research from different countries concludes that Pycnogenol helps lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol, improve microcirculation and prevent platelet aggregation.
British scientists recently proposed to tackle all of these factors with a combination of drugs in a single pill (or 'polypill') but Watson suggests that a nutritional approach could also tackle heart disease, currently the leading cause of death in the US. Stroke is the third biggest cause.
Pycnogenol is a standardised extract of French maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster) that has been marketed for several years in Europe by its manufacturer Horphag health. It has recently gained GRAS status in the US.
It has a high flavonoid content and has been shown to be a potent antioxidant. Writing in the first issue of the new journal Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, Watson notes that while vitamins have failed to show coherent evidence of a protective effect for coronary heart disease, observational research finds plant polyphenols to possess strong potential.
There is however a lack of epidemiological evidence on the supplement for long-term reduction of heart disease. But 'because Pycnogenol consists of a concentrate of polyphenols and possesses potent antioxidant activity, there is a high probability for positive effects ...in cardiovascular risk prevention', writes Watson.
The author adds that the supplement has been extensively researched for its safety and documented clinical experience on 2000 patients shows the unwanted effects is 1.5 per cent.