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Study shows pine bark naturally improves heart function

Research reveals Pycnogenol and CoQ10 taken as an adjunct to medication improves heart health: Blood volume output, physical fitness, blood pressure, as well as heart and respiratory rate

A recent study published in Panminerva Medica reveals that a Pycnogenol® and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) combination (PycnoQ10®) taken by stable heart failure patients as an adjunct to medical treatment naturally strengthens the heart, increasing the blood volume ejected with each beat.

As a consequence, the oxygen-rich blood supply to the organs improves, and patients become more physically energetic. Furthermore, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rates were improved among patients. Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all) is an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree and has been clinically proven to improve endothelial function and blood flow. As evidenced by this study, Pycnogenol®, in combination with CoQ10, offers a potent contribution to heart health management.

Each year there are an estimated 400,000 newly diagnosed cases of heart failure in the U.S., according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Heart failure is a common, chronic, long-term condition that develops as a result of hypertension, when with heart chamber walls wear out and heart muscle weaken. The disease can be costly, disabling and potentially deadly and is characterized by the heart's inability to pump or eject sufficient amounts of blood to the organs.

"Many conditions that lead to heart failure cannot be reversed, but heart failure can often be medically managed with good results," said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, a lead researcher of the study. "This study shows that a combination of Pycnogenol® and CoQ10 offers an effective, natural solution as adjunct for heart health management."

The 12-week single-blinded, placebo-controlled observational study was conducted at Chieti-Pescara University in Italy and investigated the effectiveness of Pycnogenol® and Kaneka CoQ10 (PycnoQ10®) supplementation in 53 patients. Patients were between the ages of 54 and 68 and had mild to moderate hypertension, with stable congestive heart failure. Patients recruited had been diagnosed with heart failure with an ejection fraction lower than 40 percent of their original capacity. The ejection fraction, the pumped blood volume to total left heart ventricle volume, was measured by high-resolution ultrasound. Additional inclusion criteria were a stable level of heart failure within the past three months and stable New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II (mild symptoms) or III (moderate symptoms) heart failure classification. NYHA functional classification system relates symptoms to everyday activities and the patient's quality of life. All patients were taking prescribed heart medication and most patients used three or more drugs for heart failure treatment.

Patients were divided into two groups: One group received capsules with a combination of 15 mg Pycnogenol® and 50 mg CoQ10 from Kaneka. The second group received placebo capsules in addition to their individual prescription medications. The treatment and control groups were equivalent at baseline. Patients were instructed to take seven capsules, in the morning after breakfast, each day. Patients' exercise capacity, as judged by walking on a treadmill, ejection fraction and distal edema (swelling in the leg) were evaluated.

At the conclusion of the 12-week study, there was significant decrease of systolic and diastolic pressure as well as a decrease in heart rate in the PycnoQ10® group, compared to marginal improvements in the control group. Systolic and diastolic pressure was notably lowered with PycnoQ10® from 139.2 to 133.2 mmHg and 82.3 to 77.3 mmHg, versus 140.3 to 139.5 mmHg and 83.4 to 81.2 mmHg in the control group. Heart rate was also significantly lowered from 78.4 to 74.2 beats per minute as compared to 79.1 to 78.4 in the control group. There was also considerable decrease in respiratory rate in PycnoQ10® patients from 23.1 to 21.2 breaths per minute versus 23.3 to 22.3 in the control group. The treatment with PycnoQ10® was found to significantly increase heart ejection fraction by 22.4 percent after treatment, whereas it only slightly decreased in the control group.

The physical abilities of patients improved substantially as evidenced by 3.3 times longer walking distance on a treadmill in PycnoQ10® treated patients, versus marginal improvement in the control group. As the heart is strengthened, a larger blood volume is pumped with every beat. This allows the heart to lower the beat rate and still sufficiently supply body organs with oxygen. The quality of life of patients also improved with PycnoQ10®, as validated with the Karnofsky Index, a performance scale that rates patients according to their functional impairment. At baseline patients had Karnofsky values of 43 percent, which is categorized as "handicapped and dependent on qualified medical help." After treatment with PycnoQ10® the values were up to 54.7 percent, described as "help and medical assistance are often required." No significant improvement of Karnofsky Index was observed in the control group. The distal edema, expressed as the percentage of the initial volumetric value, decreased significantly to 72 percent in PycnoQ10® treated patients but was increased by four percent in the control group. Nine PycnoQ10® treated patients (out of 32) and three (out of 21) taking placebo improved NYHA class.

"Coenzyme Q10 has been extensively researched for its ability to strengthen the heart muscle, specifically in patients with heart failure. Preclinical trials have suggested that Pycnogenol® strengthens heart chamber walls and dilates arteries," said Dr. Belcaro. "These preliminary observations suggest that the respective contributions of Coenzyme Q10 and Pycnogenol® in PycnoQ10® may significantly improve heart health."

The study showed decreased blood pressure and heart rate, confirming results from prior studies using Pycnogenol® and CoQ10. Previous studies have found that Pycnogenol® significantly improves endothelial function and consequently improves hypertension as well as long-term consequences such as renal function problems. To date, Pycnogenol® has been investigated in more than 30 clinical trials related to cardiovascular health.

About Pycnogenol®

Pycnogenol® is a natural plant extract originating from the bark of the maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France and is found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, which offer extensive natural health benefits. The extract has been widely studied for the past 40 years and has more than 280 published studies and review articles ensuring safety and efficacy as an ingredient. Today, Pycnogenol® is available in more than 700 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products worldwide. For more information, visit

About Natural Health Science, Inc. Natural Health Science Inc. (NHS), based in Hoboken, New Jersey, is the North American distributor for Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all) brand French maritime pine bark extract on behalf of Horphag Research. Pycnogenol® is a registered trademark of Horphag Research Ltd., Guernsey, and its applications are protected by U.S. patents #5,720,956 / #6,372,266 and other international patents. Horphag Research Ltd. Is the recipient of the 2008 Frost & Sullivan North American Health Ingredients Excellence in Research Award. NHS has the exclusive rights to market and sell Pycnogenol® in North America and benefits from more than 40 years of scientific research assuring the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol® as a dietary supplement. For more information about Pycnogenol® visit our website at

Katherine Davis | EurekAlert!
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