Toyo’s pine bark extract may not benefit heart health

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pine bark extract Cardiovascular disease

Some pine-bark extracts may have no effect in lowering blood pressure or reducing other risk factors for heart disease, according to researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, but extrapolation to the whole sector is unwarranted.

A new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine​ is the largest to date examining the effects of a pine-bark extract on blood pressure and other heart disease risks.

The research, supported by Toyo Shinyaku Co. Ltd, used Toyo-FVG pine bark supplements (also marketed as Flavagenol in Japan), and found that the pine extract has no beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD) predictors.

“Although a different dosage or formulation might produce different results, our findings argue against recommending this pine bark extract to improve CVD risk factors,”​ wrote the researchers.

Antioxidant power

Supplements containing antioxidant oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs) are commonly marketed for cardiovascular health benefits.

Some pine-bark extracts, high in OPCs, are suggested to have beneficial properties, and is especially linked to cardiovascular benefits, such as improved blood pressure.

Previous studies have associated pine-bark to reductions in blood pressure, however the researchers stated that many of the previous studies have notable methodological limitations.”

The new study investigated the efficacy of the pine bark extract Toyo-FVG on blood pressure and other CVD risk factors.

Safe but ineffective?

The Toyo-FVG bark extract - tested at 200 mg/d - was reported to be safe to consume, “but did not improve blood pressure or various other CVD risk factors.”

Researchers observed blood pressure levels – plus other risk factors for CVD, including cholesterol, body weight, blood glucose, and C-reactive protein levels – saw no significant differences between pine bark extract and placebo groups.

The authors noted that the results confirmed that the pine-bark extract was safe for consumption, but did not show any improvements for heart health.

Anti- antioxidants

Despite stating different dosages or formulations could produce different results, the researchers said thier findings raise questions about supplements.

The authors stated their findings were “consistent with a growing body of observational and clinical trial evidence that dietary supplements, particularly antioxidant supplementation, do not have a beneficial effect on heart disease.”

"While there's a good biological basis to presume that antioxidant supplements might have a beneficial effect on heart health, this study is another example that they don't," ​added Dr Stafford, senior author of the research paper, and associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Victor Ferrari, CEO of Horphag Research, manufacturer of Pycnogenol, a rival pine bark extract, said that extrapolation of one result to a whole industry was “scientifically insane” ​and “clearly misleading.”

“To come to the conclusion that a certain extract is not effective is fine, but to generalise this to all is not correct,” s​aid Ferrari.

Ferrari also told that he completely refuted “any statement that pine bark does not work.”

“If two or three studies were being called into question then, yes, we may think that we could have gone wrong, but we cannot be wrong on 30 plus studies showing its beneficial effects,” ​he added.

Dr. Frank Schoenlau, director of scientific communications at Horphag Research said that although Toyo-FVG and Pycnogenol come from the same botanical source, they are “entirely different products”​ due to the differences in manufacturing and processing.

“Larger molecules such as procyanidins have been demonstrated to have effects on cardiovascular risk factors – these are missing in Flavagenol so there is no surprise that it has no effect,”​ said Schoenlau.

Source: Archives of Internal Medicine

Volume 170 No. 17, doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.310

“No Beneficial Effects of Pine Bark Extract on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors”

Authors: R.L. Drieling, C.D. Gardner, J. Ma, D.K. Ahn, R.S. Stafford

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