The pathological complications of atherosclerosis, namely heart attacks and strokes, are preceded by endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial cells line every avenue of blood flow in the body, working to reduce friction within blood vessels and improve blood flow. A study published in the January 2012 issue of European Heart Journal examines patients with coronary artery disease and the effects of natural supplement Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, and a recognized natural solution for heart health. The study found that Pycnogenol naturally improves endothelial function in patients with stable coronary artery disease.
“When coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked by plaque build-up, oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the heart muscle, often leading to a heart attack,” says Dr. Frank Enseleit, the lead researcher of the study. “The results of this study show for the first time that Pycnogenol significantly improves endothelial function and blood flow in patients with coronary heart disease. The contribution of Pycnogenol for vascular health can be clearly identified in spite of patients’ complex medication regimen of blood thinners, statins and blood pressure medications.”
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study was carried out at the Clinic for Cardiology at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland. The study investigated 23 patients with stable coronary artery disease, as documented by coronary angiography. All patients were in stable cardiovascular health owing to excellent medication with statins, anti-hypertensives and blood thinners throughout the study.
Patients were randomly assigned to two groups. Pycnogenol and placebo tablets were prepared in identical capsules to ensure uniform appearance of both formulations. All investigators were unaware of the allocation procedure at any time. Patients in Group One received Pycnogenol (200 mg/d) for eight weeks followed by a two-week washout-period, then took placebo for another eight weeks. Group Two received the opposite sequence of placebo first, then two weeks wash-out, followed by eight weeks with Pycnogenol (200 mg/d). All patients had well-controlled blood lipids, blood pressure and blood coagulability due to their individual complex medication regimens. Before and after the eight weeks of treatment with Pycnogenol and placebo, respectively, blood samples were taken and the flow-mediated dilatation of the brachial arteries in the upper arm was established. After eight weeks of treatment with Pycnogenol, artery dilatation increased significantly by 32 percent, while it remained unchanged in the placebo group.
The study also found that plasma-8-isoprostanes, an index of oxidative stress, were reduced significantly after eight weeks of treatment with Pycnogenol, compared to baseline and placebo, from 0.71±0.09 to 0.66±0.13 (p=0.049 vs. baseline and p=0.005 vs. placebo). Several lines of evidence suggested that oxidative stress promotes endothelial dysfunction. The study also found that plasma levels of artery-constricting endothelin-1 were reduced, providing further evidence of an improvement to endothelial function. No effects of Pycnogenol were found regarding platelet function, which the study authors contribute to the general use of blood thinners in their patients.
“The balance between endothelial function and dysfunction plays an important role in the cause and progression of atherosclerosis, and in the transition from a stable to an unstable disease state. As such, the evaluation of endothelial function has emerged as an important end point in cardiovascular research,” says Dr. Frank Enseleit. “After Pycnogenol usage, we were able to identify a significant improvement of endothelial function in individuals who depend on medications as a result of their heart disease. Pycnogenol appears to help restore the body’s own functions in flow-mediated arterial dilatation.”
This groundbreaking study further strengthens Pycnogenol’s already large arsenal of cardiovascular health benefits. Past clinical trials have shown beneficial effects of Pycnogenol on chronic inflammation as well as cardiovascular risk factors including hypertension, cholesterol and platelet function. This new study also provides further evidence on the safety of Pycnogenol for patients taking cardiovascular medicines. For a complete bibliography of studies visit pycnogenol.com.