Pine bark extracts may help curb age-related muscle loss; Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock / lisafx
© iStock / lisafx

Related tags Oxidative stress Muscle

Supplements containing the French maritime pine bark extract Pycnogenol may help stabilize muscle loss, support muscular function, and boosts daily muscle endurance, says a new study.

Data from a study with 64 healthy seniors aged 70-78 indicated that 150 mg per day of Pycnogenol may improve muscle function and endurance in a range of everyday activities, from carrying items to climbing stairs and walking.

Results published in Minerva Ortopedica e Traumatologica​ also indicated that supplementation with the pine bark was associated with a reduction in oxidative stress of 14%. Oxidative stress is reportedly a common measurement of sarcopenia which prevents the body from normal detoxifying and repair.

“Supplementation with Pycnogenol – suppressing the excess in oxidative stress and controlling muscular pain and fatigue – possibly in association with some specific protein and vitamins supplementation, may produce faster muscular replacement and muscular remodeling improving physical functions and fitness. In this study, muscle loss appeared to be controlled and reduced,” ​wrote the authors from Irvine3 Labs and D’Annunzio University in Italy.


Muscle loss is a natural part of aging, and researchers have estimated that, after the age of 50, we lose 1-2% of our muscles each year. Strength declines as well, at a rate of 1.5% per year beginning at 50 years and accelerating to 3% after the age of 60.

According to a monograph from the US Dairy Export Council, the direct health care cost attributable to sarcopenia were estimated to be $18.5 billion in 2000 in the US, a number that represented about 1.5% of health care expenditures for that year.

Dr Douglas Paddon Jones at the University of Texas medical branch told attendees at the IFT show in 2011​ that a “horrifying​” loss of muscle mass in older people after just a few days of inactivity should serve as a wake-up call for industry to put tackling sarcopenia higher up the priority list.

If you put healthy people in their 70s in bed for 10 days, they can lose 10 percent of their total lean leg mass. That’s a tremendous muscle loss.”

Study details

Pycnogenol_trees small
Image © Horphag Research

The Italy-based researchers assigned their healthy seniors to undertake an exercise plan and lifestyle changes with or without Pycnogenol supplements for eight weeks.

Results showed that the pine bark group experienced greater muscular function and endurance in daily tasks such as carrying items (4-5 lbs) (71% improvement versus 23% in the control group), climbing stairs (52 % improvement versus 20% in the control ground) and distance walked (38% improvement versus 17% in the control group).

Supplementation with Pycnogenol was also associated with reduced proteinuria – the presence of protein in urine which, with normal kidney function, can indicate waste from muscle erosion – by 40%.

In addition, individuals who took the pine bark extract supplements demonstrated improved general fitness scores by more than 46% in comparison with the control group.

“Pycnogenol supplementation appears to be effective in improving strength and muscular activity and possibly in controlling muscular loss in older, otherwise healthy subjects,” ​wrote the researchers.

“Supplementation with Pycnogenol may improve the subjective status and the antioxidant power in plasma in healthy subjects who particularly feel the burden of fatigue in any ‘normal’ activity (i.e. shopping, taking care of home problems, walking and even socializing etc.) that was not causing fatigue just months or weeks before.

“The role of high oxidative stress in these subjects should be better investigated and correlated to the other concomitant factors. Many subjects with this problem (fatigue for normal efforts) and even with cardiac fatigue (i.e. causing tachycardia) and muscular loss, at the moment, have very limited options. Pycnogenol could be a great potential for safe self-medication in this ‘still undefined’ but very common condition.”

Source: Minerva Ortopedica e Traumatologica
Sept 2016, Vol. 67, Number 3, Pages 124-130
“Preservation of muscular mass and strength in aged subjects with Pycnogenol supplementation”
Authors: G. Belcaro, M. Dugall

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