Chronic inflammation, brought about by an over-expression or lack of control of the normal protective mechanism, can lead to a range of inflammatory related disease, particularly cardiovascular disease.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Inflammation (Vol. 3), supplemented the diets of seven young, healthy volunteers (five men) for five days with Pycnogenol (200 mg). Blood samples were taken at day one after a 24 hour abstinence from flavonoid consumption, and again at day five.
Pycnogenol, made exclusively by Horphag Research and co-sponsors of this study, has been claimed to have beneficial effects on a wide range of medical conditions from diabetes to asthma. It has also been proposed to boost male fertility and improve the memory of mice.
The product is extracted from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows on the southern coast of France, and is currently used in over 400 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products.
After five days of supplementation the researchers found that activation of the pro-inflammatory molecule, nuclear factor-kappa B(NF-kB), was inhibited by about 15 per cent.
"This study demonstrates Pycnogenol's ability to inhibit NF-kB and the pro-inflammatory molecules under its control. This reduced 'friendly-fire' incidents where the body's immune system turned inflammation on tissue," said lead researcher, Petra Högger, from the University of Wurzburg.
While the study has several obvious limitations, including the small sample population, lack of a placebo and no blinding, the authors noted that these results were in-keeping with other clinical data on the anti-inflammatory effects of the pine bark extract.
Finnish researchers have also reported that extracts from Scotch pine have potent anti-inflammatory effects and suggested that this extract could be used in supplements targeted at arthritis sufferers (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004, Vol. 52, pp. 7532-7540).
The main markets for Pycnogenol are the US and Japan. Horphag recently signed contracts to supply the Indian supplement market.