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Study unlocks Pycnogenol’s skin health mechanism

By Elaine Watson , 26-Jan-2012
Last updated the 26-Jan-2012 at 15:09 GMT

Daily supplements of an extract from French maritime pine bark may boost skin elasticity by 25% and skin hydration by 8%, says a new study.

Twelve weeks of supplementation with the Pycnogenol branded ingredient was associated with increases in skin elasticity and hydration, and an increase in the production of hyaluronic acid in skin by 44%, according to findings published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology.

Hyaluronic acid is a component of the matrix between cells (extracellular matrix) that occurs naturally in the body until the age of about 30, after which levels start to decrease. The decrease is understood to play a role in the aging process, particular a breakdown in the extracellular matrix and an increase in the formation of wrinkles.

Indeed, the pine bark extract was also associated with a 3% reduction in skin wrinkles, according to researchers from Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF) in Dusseldorf, Germany and Horphag Research, the company behind the ingredient.

“The present study confirms at a molecular level the beneficial effects Pycnogenol supplementation may provide to human skin,” wrote the researchers.

Success story

This is not the first time that the potential skin health benefits of the pine bark extract have been reported. Earlier studies have reported that Pycnogenol may bind and protect collagen and elastin in the skin (Free Rad Biol Med, Vol. 36, pp. 811-822), increase blood flow to the skin (Angiology, Vol. 56, PP. 699-705), and protect against UV damage (Free Rad Biol Med, Vol. 30, pp. 154-160)

The study was supported by Horphag Research. 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 over 35 years ago.

The company’s CEO told NutraIngredients-USA last year that the firm had only scratched the surface when it came to functional food and drink applications for the ingredient, which is water-soluble and heat-stable, making it suitable for a wide range of products from pasteurized dairy products to baked goods, said Ferrari.

Study details

The researchers recruited 20 healthy women, aged between 55 and 68 and assigned them to receive 75 mg of Pycnogenol per day for 12 weeks. The study was not controlled by a placebo group.

Results showed that the pine bark extract was associated with an increase in skin elasticity and hydration and that these effects were especially noticeable in women with dry skin.

The researchers also noted an increase in the activity of genes linked to collagen and hyaluronic acid production, indicating that supplementation promoted production of both of these.

“This study provides skin-physiological and for the first time molecular evidence that Pycnogenol supplementation benefits human skin by increasing skin hydration and skin elasticity,” wrote the researchers.

“These effects are most likely due to an increased synthesis of extracellular matrix molecules such as hyaluronic acid and possibly collagen.”

The results were welcomed by Victor Ferrari, CEO of Horphag Research, as an “exciting and technically advanced investigation with women representing actual consumer profiles greatly supports our efforts for targeting the skin beauty category for both dietary supplements and functional foods”.

Source: Skin Pharmacology and Physiology
2012, Volume 25, Pages 86-92, doi: 10.1159/000335261
“Pycnogenol Effects on Skin Elasticity and Hydration Coincide with Increased Gene Expressions of Collagen Type I and Hyaluronic Acid Synthase in Women”
Authors: A. Marini, S. Grether-Beck, T. Jaenicke, M. Weber, C. Burki, P. Formann, H. Brenden, F. Schönlau, J. Krutmann

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