Pine bark is in and out of the health news based on the fact that it is a strong antioxidant. It’s one of those natural substances that counter the effects of free radicals, which are oxygen molecules that can cause cell damage.
But, alas, all news is not good news, as a new study from Stanford University suggests. And being a smart health consumer means knowing all the news, whether it’s finding out that something works or finding out that it probably doesn’t.
A new study shows that pine bark extract doesn’t appear to lower blood pressure or reduce other risk factors for heart disease. It was published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. And it is the largest, good-quality study to examine the effects of pine bark extract on blood pressure and heart disease. Some previous studies linked pine bark extract to reductions in blood pressure, though they were not placebo-controlled. Sometimes, people took the extract in conjunction with other medication, so it wasn’t possible see what the pine bark was doing itself.
In the new study, researchers recruited 130 overweight individuals who had blood pressure higher than normal and who weren’t taking medication for it. These may be the type of people most likely to use supplements. They were randomly assigned to take either pine bark or a placebo. The extract dosage was 200 mg per day, the average amount used in previous studies.
Researchers took blood pressure and blood samples before the study, at six weeks and then again at 12 weeks. They also monitored patients so their diets, medications and weight didn’t change during the study.
The results: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and C-reactive protein levels and body weight (all heart disease risk factors) remained the same in pine bark and placebo groups. Other analyses failed to find benefits from taking the supplement. What the study did find was that pine bark was safe — but, unfortunately, it didn’t improve heart health.
Results like this are important to report, as risk factors for heart disease are nothing to take lightly. Knowing a supplement can help might be as valuable as knowing not to rely on one.