Moreover, the randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 156 patients with osteoarthritis and using the pine bark extract, Pycnogenol, indicated an improvement in all osteoarthritis symptoms by 56 per cent, according to data published in the journal Phytotherapy Research. The study supports and expands earlier results from a smaller University of Arizona-led study involving 36 people and published last year in the journal Nutrition Research (November 2007, Vol. 27, pp. 692-697). Osteoarthritis effects about seven million people in the UK alone are reported to have long-term health problems associated with arthritis. Around 206m working days were lost in the UK in 1999-2000, equal to £18bn (€26bn) of lost productivity. "The results of this study are significant as they clearly demonstrate the clinical action of Pycnogenol on osteoarthritis and management of symptoms," said lead researcher Dr. Gianni Belcaro from Chieti-Pescara University. "The use of Pycnogenol many reduce costs and side effects of anti-inflammatory agents and offer a natural alternative solution to people suffering from osteoarthritis." Seventy-eight men and 78 women (average age 48.2) with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to receive either daily Pycnogenol supplements (100 mg) or placebo for three months. The subjects were free to continue taking their choice of pain medication provided they recorded every tablet in a diary for later evaluation. Using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) Osteoarthritis Index as a measure of arthritis symptoms, the researchers report a 56 per cent reduction in the global WOMAC score for people in the Pycnogenol group, compared to only 9.6 per cent for people in the placebo group. Scores for stiffness were reduced by 53 per cent. Moreover, mobility, measured by walking performance on a treadmill, improved in the subjects receiving supplements of the pine bark extract: at baseline, subjects could only walk an average 74 yards without feeling pain, while at the end and after three months, they could walk 216 yards. People in the placebo group could walk an average 71 yards at baseline and 96 yards at the end. Interestingly, the subjects in the Pycnogenol group also reduced their intake of standard pain medication by 58 per cent, which had the knock-on effect of improving gastrointestinal complications associated with the medication by 63 per cent. "The reduction of signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and of vascular problems may be attributed to the diverse anti-inflammatory mechanism of Pycnogenol, as the unspecific inhibition of cyclooxygenases I and II and the inhibition of matrix metalloproteins," wrote the authors. "Further clinical studies have to clarify whether the increase of muscular performance is due to inflammation control or due to a direct action on muscular function," they concluded. Welcome results Horphag Research, the company behind the Pycnogenol ingredient, has welcomed the results of the study, funded by a combination of university grants and Horphag. Victor Ferrari, CEO of Horphag, said the new research into osteoarthritis has been a "paradigm shift" for the ingredient. "We were able to demonstrate Pycnogenol's impact on all inflammatory parameters and have succeeded in providing strong clinical evidence of Pycnogenol efficacy in this field. It is obvious that Pycnogenol will have to be considered as an innovative ingredient of choice for the joint health market," said Ferrari. The company has been very active in sponsoring and supporting studies into the potential health benefits of the pine bark extract. The first research was conducted on the ingredient 35 years ago. According to a statement from the company, several patents have been filed for Pycnogenol's application for COX-1, COX-2 and treating osteoarthritis. Source: Phytotherapy Research April 2008, Volume 22, Issue 4, Pages 518 - 523 "Treatment of osteoarthritis with Pycnogenol. The SVOS (San Valentino osteo-arthrosis study): evaluation of signs, symptoms, physical performance and vascular aspects" Authors: G. Belcaro, M. R. Cesarone, S. Errichi, C. Zulli, B. M. Errichi, G. Vinciguerra, A. Ledda, A. Di Renzo, S. Stuard, M. Dugall, L. Pellegrini, S. Errichi, G. Gizzi, E. Ippolito, A. Ricci, M. Cacchio, G. Cipollone, I. Ruffini, F. Fano, M. Hosoi, P. Rohdewald
Supplements of French maritime pine bark extracts may reduce the pain associated with arthritis of the knee by about 55 per cent, suggests a new study.