BotanicalsHealthy Aging

Maritime Pine Bark Extract: An Anti-Aging Solution?

The anti-aging and metabolic benefits of this highly-researched pine bark compound

Maritime pine bark extract, sourced from the maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton), has a long history of use both in industry and in medicine. The tree has been widely used since the 16th century in Europe as source of timber as well as turpentine,[1] the volatile pungent oil that many of us know by its pervasive smell. In addition to its many industrial uses, the maritime pine is rich in health-benefiting constituents like procyanidins, bioflavonoids, and organic acids that offer health benefits that span the range of structure to beauty.

For the purposes of research, a standardized pine bark extract (SPBE) taken from the maritime pine is studied and used clinically. More than 400 PubMed indexed studies exist on the topic of SPBE, spanning a broad array of topics including osteoarthritis,[2] attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),[3] varicose veins,[4] allergic rhinitis,[5] traumatic brain injury (TBI),[6] bone density,[7] cognitive health,[8] and even sexual health and function.[9] With each of these the interest has only grown as the mechanisms and physiological effects are further understood.

Metabolic syndrome

Within the subset of health conditions that impact us with aging, the issues associated with metabolic syndrome (high blood sugar, elevated cholesterol, hypertension, and abdominal obesity) tend to infiltrate gradually. Perhaps it starts with realizing that belly bump won’t go away, and the next thing you know in the doctor’s office your blood pressure reading is elevated. Although much of the management, particularly in the early stages of onset, is to follow a healthy diet and increase exercise, nutritional supplements may also help tip the scales back in our favor. SPBE is one such supplement, as it can impact many of these issues at once,[10] simultaneously providing strong free radical-scavenging activity.[11]

Insulin Resistance. There are numerous studies regarding the impact of SPBE on insulin-resistant diabetes and it complications. SPBE supports the reduction of blood glucose and its utilization within the cells, also lowering hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels,[12],[13],[14],[15] a marker of blood sugar stability on a longer-term basis. SPBE has been shown to inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs),[16] which play a role in the development of diabetes-related complications such as retinopathy (eye problems), kidney disease, nerve damage, and cardiovascular disease.[17] The antioxidant effects help further support eye health and vision,[18],[19] kidney function,[20],[21] the healing of diabetic ulcers,[22] and improved nerve function.[23]

SPBE supports the reduction of blood glucose and its utilization within the cells, also lowering hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels.

Cholesterol. Cholesterol balance also may be improved with the use of SPBE. In numerous human studies, supplementation with SPBE was shown to significantly lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (aka: “bad cholesterol”) levels, while high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL) (the “good cholesterol”) was either unaffected or increased. Dosages ranging from 120 mg to 360 mg daily were shown to have a cholesterol-reducing effect, along with other health-related benefits.

SPBE was shown to significantly lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (aka: “bad cholesterol”) levels, while high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL) (the “good cholesterol”) was either unaffected or increased.

In one study, after three months of taking 120 mg of SPBE daily, total cholesterol decreased from 209 to 192 mg/dL, LDL decreased from 133 to 107 mg/dL, and plasma antioxidant activity also significantly improved.[24] In another study, at a dosage of 150 mg daily, after six weeks of supplementation, significant decreases in LDL and increases in HDL were seen in the majority of subjects, along a significant increase in antioxidant capacity.[25]

Blood pressure. A reduction in blood pressure also has been shown in clinical studies with SPBE.  Whether used alone or in addition to pharmaceutical treatment, SPBE has been shown in clinical studies to support the lowering of blood pressure and improve blood vessel function. In mildly hypertensive patients, supplementation of 200 mg of SPBE daily led to a significant improvement in systolic blood pressure (SBP) compared to placebo, with the SBP decreasing from 140 mmHg at baseline to 133 mmHg at eight weeks compared to only 139 mmHg with placebo.[26] In the subset of individuals with more severe hypertension, a more dramatic effect was seen, with SBP being reduced from 150 mmHg to 134 mmHg.

Multiple studies have shown that supplementation with SPBE significantly reduces the need for blood pressure medications, with stable blood pressures being maintained.

Multiple studies have shown that supplementation with SPBE significantly reduces the need for blood pressure medications, with stable blood pressures being maintained.[27],[28] As an adjunctive support to medication, supplementation with SPBE not only led to significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure, it also significantly improved markers of kidney function in hypertensive patients with early signs of declining renal function.[29] SPBE also has been shown to reduce markers of edema (water retention), a potential side effect associated with the use of anti-hypertensive medications.[30]

Belly Fat. The belly bump, butter patch, or whatever we lovingly call it, also can be kept in balance with SPBE. This extract has been shown to help reduce waist circumferences in both males and females with metabolic syndrome.[31] SPBE has been shown to promote the development of the healthier brown adipose tissue,[32] which is protective against obesity and diabetes.[33] Treatment with the extract also reversed the increases in weight and white adipose tissue (“bad fat”) in animals eating a high-fat and cholesterol diet.[34],[35]

Erectile dysfunction

It’s long been understood that erectile dysfunction (ED) is often related to cardiovascular disease and the health of the blood vessels. Given the important role that blood flow and engorgement play in achieving and maintaining a male erection, it’s clear that healthy blood vessels and good cardiovascular health are important in the prevention and care of ED.

After taking 120 mg of SPBE daily for three months, ED was significantly reduced from moderate to mild in patients with ED.

Antioxidants such as those from SPBE play an important role in the production and release of nitric oxide (NO) from the cells that line the blood vessels. This release of NO is critical for normal, healthy dilation of the blood vessels, which allows blood to flow into regions where it is needed. In humans, SPBE has been shown to improve forearm blood flow via the increase in NO production,[36] and these same mechanisms are how SPBE may help improve erectile function.

SPBE has been shown as a solo intervention and in combination with L-arginine, a precursor for NO formation, to improve erectile function in numerous studies.[37],[38] After taking 120 mg of SPBE daily for three months, ED was significantly reduced from moderate to mild in patients with ED.[24] The benefits seen with supplementation of SPBE on blood vessel function also have been shown to translate to tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and Meniere’s disease.[39],[40]

Brain health

In subjects spanning a wide range of ages from childhood to their late eighties, SPBE has been shown to support healthy brain function.

In healthy professionals, supplementation with 150 mg of SPBE daily for 12 weeks was observed to improve cognitive function, attention, and mental performance.

In kids, SPBE has been shown to improve attention, concentration, and visual-motor coordination, also reducing hyperactivity in children with ADHD, possibly via the normalization of catecholamine levels and reduction of oxidative stress.[41],[42],[43] In healthy professionals, supplementation with 150 mg of SPBE daily for 12 weeks was observed to improve cognitive function, attention, and mental performance, along with a significant decrease in free radicals compared to controls.[44] In a population of healthy adults (55 to 70 years in age) who were screened and found to have high levels of oxidative stress, a significant improvement in cognitive function and oxidative stress were reported after supplementation of SPBE at a dose of 100 mg for 12 months.[45] Finally, in a study of older healthy adults ranging from 60 to 85 years of age, significantly improved working memory was seen in the group taking 150 mg of SPBE daily after 3 months.[46]

In summary

At times, we encounter a nutritional intervention that offers a broad array of benefits, seemingly tailored for a specific purpose. Keeping blood glucose and cholesterol healthy and within normal ranges, reducing blood pressure, preventing the belly bulge, maintaining sexual vigor, and enhancing cognitive function are all often desirable with aging, and each may be improved with SPBE. This is but a short list, as the diverse potential benefits of this botanical extract extend well beyond just this.

 

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Banaba’s Powerful Effects in Diabetes
Grape Seed Polyphenols and the Gut Microbiota

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