The combined combined anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-edema (anti-water retention) benefits of pine bark extract can keep the brain healthy. [Photo: Bigstock]

Pine bark extract improves memory, attention span

13 January, 2016

Natural Health News — The French maritime pine bark extract known as Pycnogenol improves brain function in individuals who have high levels of oxidative stress but are otherwise in good health, according to new data.

Writing in the Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences, a  group of Italian scientists, reported that the remedy may be of benefit for the so-called baby boomer population of individuals who currently range from 55-70 years of age.

Over 12 months, researchers at Chieti-Pescara University compared cognitive function in subjects who used 100 mg of Pycnogenol per day and also implemented a series of lifestyle measures versus subjects who implemented lifestyle measures alone and compared these to a control group not taking the herbal extract.

What you need to know

» Previous studies have shown that Pycnogenol – maritime pine bark extract – can help improve cognitive function.

» This current study found that in combination with sensible lifestyle choices the supplement improved memory, attention span and decision-making in otherwise healthy individuals suffering from oxidative stress.

» The scientists say this improvement is down to  the combined combined anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-edema (anti-water retention) benefits of the supplement.

The lifestyle measures that participants were asked to implement included the following: sleeping at least 8 hours per night with bedtime no later than 10:30 pm, eating regular meals at defined hours with reduced caffeine, salt, sugar and alcohol intake, and exercising for at least 20 minutes per day.

Results showed that Pycnogenol supplementation improved a range of cognitive measures and also decreased oxidative stress, said principal investigator Dr. Gianni Belcaro.

Lowering oxidative stress

In the present study, the ability to make a decision was significantly improved by 71% in the Pycnogenol group but declined by 5% in the control group.

Memory significantly improved by 37.3% in the supplement group but decreased by 9.8% in the control group.

Individuals who supplemented with Pycnogenol had a 41.2% improvement in their attention span versus a 1.9% improvement in controls.

The researchers also documented a significant 28% decrease in oxidative stress in the Pycnogenol group but no change in the controls.

According to Dr. Belcaro, Pycnogenol possibly acts to improve brain function and attention through a combined anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-edema (anti-water retention) activity.

The findings support those reported early in 2015 in a study that tested Pycnogenol in healthy professionals 35-55 years of age with increased oxidative stress.