Pycnogenol, extracted from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows on the southern coast of France, is currently used in over 400 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products. The functional food and cosmeceutical ingredient, contract manufactured in situ by Biolandes, is the branded ingredient of private firm Horphag Research.
This latest study, published in a recent issue of the journal of Minerva Cardioangiologica, contributes to growing research that suggests the potential health benefits of the pine bark extract, Pycnogenol.
The two-part study conducted at G. D’Annunzio University in Pescara, Italy and consisting of a brain CT scan and a scoring system, indicated that Pycnogenol lowered symptoms of jetlag, such as fatigue, headaches, and brain edema (swelling) in both healthy individuals and hypertensive patients.
Passengers, say the researchers, also experienced minimal lower leg edema, a common condition associated with long flights.
“I’m encouraged by the results of the study as Pycnogenol was effective in preventing jetlag related effects without any side-effects,” said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, a lead researcher for the study conducted at G. D’Annunzio University in Pescara, Italy.
“Previous Pycnogenol flight studies have shown a reduction in jetlag; however this was the first study to solely focus on the condition,” he added.
The two-part study
Jetlag, also called desynchronosis, is largely caused by the body’s inability to immediately adjust to the time in a different zone while travelling. As the body struggles to cope with the new schedule, temporary conditions such as insomnia, fatigue, irritability and an impaired ability to concentrate may set in.
For the study, 133 passengers who took flights between seven and nine hours in length were given 50 mg of oral Pycnogenol three times daily, for seven days, starting two days prior to the flight.
Patients in the first part of the study were evaluated with a rating scale consisting of a scoring system. Thirty-eight Pycnogenol-treated and 30 control patients were rated on the most common complaints of jetlag that included: dehydration and loss of appetite; fatigue; insomnia and/or highly irregular sleep patterns, and an alternation in mental performance (easy crossword) as well as general wellbeing.
Observations were measured and taken within 48 hours after the end of the flights.
The researchers report their results showed a "significantly lower score (56 per cent) in the Pycnogenol group for all items rated", collectively leading to a reduction in jetlag signs and symptoms.
"Moreover, symptoms lasted only for an average of 18.2 hours in the Pycnogenol group as compared to 39.3 hours in the control group," add the researchers.
In a second group of flight passengers, a brain CT scan was performed after the flight in order to assess brain alterations after flights. The study consisted of 34 Pycnogenol-treated patients and 31 controlled patients.
Jetlag symptoms were evaluated using a rating scale providing scores according to the severity. The first observation was performed within 28 hours from the end of the flight.
According to the scientists a swathe of symptoms "were all significantly lower by on average 61.5 per cent in the Pycnogenol group compared to the untreated control group."
Symptoms included sleep alterations, short-term memory alterations, minor cardiac alterations (heart rate, blood pressure), and lower limb swelling.
“This is the first study describing diffuse subliminal swellings of the brain after long haul flights, which we found to be reduced to less than half in the Pycnogenol group,” said Dr Belcaro.
The researchers, while asserting that more science needs to be conducted on this topic, "Pycnogenol is emerging as a natural, yet safe option for long distance travellers."
Investing in science
Horphag's chief operating officer and executive vice president Victor Ferrari told NutraIngredients.com recently that expanding applications through science is key to the business, which continues to report growth on an annual basis.
He added that Horphag ploughs $1.5m - "most of its profits" - into research each year.
Horphag Research, manufacturers of Pycnogenol, 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.
Source: Minerva Cardioangiologica October 2008, Volume 56, Suppl. 1, no.5, Pages 1-7Published online ahead of print"Jet-lag: Prevention with PYCNOGENOL. Preliminary report: Evaluation in healthy individuals and in hypertensive patients"Authors: G. Belcaro, M.R. Cesarone, R. J. Steigerwalt, A. Di Renzo, M.G. Grossi, A. Ricci, S. Stuard, A. Ledda, M. Dugall, U.Cornelli, M. Cacchio