Bilberry-pine bark mix shows eye health benefits

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Daily supplements of a blend of a bilberry extract and an extract from French maritime pine bark may lower the pressure in the eye and boost overall ocular health, says a new study.

High blood pressure in the eye, known as ocular hypertension, was reduced following 24 weeks of supplementation with the branded ingredient Mitrogenol, a blend of Indena’s Mirtoselect and Horphag’s Pycnogenol, according to findings published in Clinical Ophthalmology​. The study was co-funded by the companies.

Furthermore, when the ingredient mix was used in combination with Latanoprost eye drops, the pressure in the eye was reduced to almost normal levels, report the researchers, led by Dr Robert Steigerwalt, Jr from the University of Chieti-Pescara in Italy.

“Ocular hypertension is not only a major contributor to impaired vision, but can result in serious health challenges including glaucoma, a condition that affects nearly 2.5 million U.S. adults,”​ explained Steigerwalt, Jr. “Consistent with previous studies, this new research further demonstrates that Mirtogenol is an effective, natural solution for improving blood flow through the central retinal arteries.”

Between 4 and 7 per cent of the US population is estimated to have ocular hypertension, according to a report published in the Archives of Ophthalmology earlier this year (Vol. 128, pp. 276-287). The condition is reported to increase the risk of developing glaucoma, but not all cases of ocular hypertension lead to glaucoma.

Study details

Steigerwalt and his co-workers recruited 79 people with ocular hypertension but no signs of visual loss or glaucoma, and randomly assigned them to one of three groups: One group received daily Mirtogenol supplements (40 mg Pycnogenol, 80 mg Mirtoselect), one group received Latanoprost eye drops, and the third group received a combination of both.

After 24 weeks of intervention, the researchers noted a reduction of blood pressure in the eye from an average of 38.1 to 29.0 mmHg in the Mirtogenol group, from 37.7 to 27.2 mmHg in the Latanoprost group, and from 38.0 to 23.0 mmHg in the combined group. Normal eye pressure is reported to range from 10 to 21 mmHg.

Commenting on the potential mechanism, the researchers note that other studies have reported that the bilberry extract may counteract the increased permeability of blood capillaries. Moreover, the pine bark extract may improve the lining of blood vessels and lower overall blood pressure, said the researchers.

“The results obtained from this, and the previous pilot trial, with the dietary supplement Mirtogenol on intraocular pressure, appear to be very promising,”​ wrote the researchers. “A much larger study with a significant number of patients should further assess the benefits of the supplement for controlling intraocular pressure,” ​they concluded.

Source: Clinical Ophthalmology
2010, Volume 4, Pages 471-476
“Mirtogenol potentiates latanoprost in lowering intraocular pressure and improves ocular blood flow in asymptomatic subjects”
Authors: R.D. Steigerwalt Jr, G. Belcaro, P. Morazzoni, E. Bombardelli, C. Burki, F. Schonlau

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