Pycnogenol supplementation may improve mild cognitive impairment in older men

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Hightwaystarz Photography
Getty Images / Hightwaystarz Photography

Related tags Pycnogenol Cognitive function Cognitive decline Cognitive health

Supplementation with the antioxidant-rich extract of French maritime pine was linked to an improvement of mild cognitive impairment, a new study suggests.

Male study participants aged 55 to 75 who ingested a branded form of the extract called Pycnogenol for eight weeks scored significantly higher in a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) compared to the score they had before supplementation.

Participants who did not ingest the supplement, on the other hand, did not score significantly higher.

The authors, affiliated with the International Agency of Pharma Standard Supplements in Italy as well as the Chieti-Pescara University, described the findings as “remarkable, mainly because the achieved average score of [the examination] belongs to the range of normality for healthy individuals without cognitive impairment.”

Mild cognitive impairment isn’t easy to spot by the patient or his or her family, the authors explained in their report​, published this summer in Italian journal Minerva Medica. ​It is, however, possible to diagnose it based on a Mini-Mental State Examination score.

Results of the study may have implications on the prevention of aging-related cognitive decline, they argued. “The earliest stage of dementia is defined as mild cognitive impairment; 70% of subjects diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment progress to dementia at some point,” ​they added.

Building science backing anti-aging benefits

Studies have linked French maritime pine extract to various anti-aging properties. A 2017 study published in Nutrients​ linked the extract to joint benefits, and another one published in Mineva Medica​ linked it to a normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in women around menopause age.

Researchers in this present study propose that its anti-aging properties come from the extract’s ability to normalize oxidative stress levels in a relatively short period of time when ingested.

But the authors were not able to elucidate further. “The association between oxidative stress levels and cognitive dysfunction is still debated,” ​they wrote, “since its complexity has not been completely understood.

“The supplementation regimen should be tested in larger studies with longer follow-up, in order to better quantify its efficacy in improving cognitive function.”

Study design

Eighty-seven healthy men between the ages of 55 and 75 participated in the study. Part of the intake requirement was to score low on the MMSE test, be generally healthy, and taking no drugs in the previous six months.

All participants had a normal brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging, or a diagnostic x-ray of the brain).

The study was not placebo controlled. Instead, all participants received standard treatment for mild cognitive impairment, but around half of the men (44) received Pycnogenol supplements (150 mg per day) in addition to the standard treatment. This assignment was not randomized nor blinded.

Oxidative stress levels, expressed with plasma free radicals, were measured to evaluate the link between alterations of cognitive function and the change in plasma free radicals.

Source: Minerva Medica
DOI: 10.23736/S0390-5616.18.04382-5
Pycnogenol supplementation in minimal cognitive dysfunction
Authors: Morio HOSOI, et al.

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