A new study by has found that Pycnogenol -natural pine bark extract from the French maritime pine tree - helps prevent damage that high blood pressure causes to the heart.
The study was conducted at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Elderly female mice (18 months old) were randomly divided into four groups: control mice, mice receiving Pycnogenol only, mice receiving L-NAME only (a substance which causes arterial constriction) and mice receiving both Pycnogenol and L-NAME. Pycnogenol and L-NAME were administered in tap water.
The study was approved by the Animal Review Committee at the University of Arizona.
Previous studies have shown Pycnogenol supplementation to be associated with improved cardiovascular health, such as cholesterol reduction, blood pressure control and prevention of thrombosis.
One group of hypertensive mice received Pycnogenol in drinking water for four weeks and another group of hypertensive mice was left untreated. After five weeks, the hearts of the latter control group had significantly increased in size as a result of hypertension. In the Pycnogenol treated group, hypertension and heart function parameters resembled those found in healthy control mice with healthy blood pressure.
"This study provides evidence that oral administration of Pycnogenol reversed cardiovascular remodeling induced by L-NAME by blocking nitric oxide production, which leads to hypertension and finally cardiomyopathy," said Dr. Ronald Watson, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona and a lead researcher of the study.
After a detailed investigation of the heart tissue, Dr Watson found Pycnogenol supplementation to significantly enhance the connective collagen matrix of cardiac tissue.
Whereas the chronic hypertension in mice led to a significant loss of connective collagen fibers, Pycnogenol significantly increased the collagen presence, resulting in stronger cardiac chambers.
Dr Watson said that alternative treatments such as these were crucial components in the fight against heart disease.
"Alternative treatments such as Pycnogenol are crucial components in the fight against heart disease," he said.
"The effectiveness of Pycnogenol supplementation is a great option for many people who want an alternative to prescription medications such as beta blockers or ACE inhibitors. This new study shows Pycnogenol administers a therapeutic effect to limit the degenerative process in patients predisposed to congestive heart failure, such as the aged," he added.
Dr Watson presented the new research earlier this month at the SupplySide East Educational Conference and Trade Show in Secaucus, New Jersey, USA.