Discover how a special kind of pine bark improves heart health by reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome
(NaturalHealth365) Metabolic syndrome – a linked cluster of undesirable health conditions that can include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat and elevated cholesterol – has reached pandemic status in the United States. Yet, we know of many natural substances – like pine bark – that can help to support a healthy life – especially good heart function.
And, to be perfectly blunt: the reason why so many people remain uneducated about how to eliminate these health issues is largely due to the power and influence of the pharmaceutical industry – which controls the mainstream media and Western medicine.
Keep in mind, metabolic syndrome currently affects a shocking 33 percent of American adults – and has been shown to greatly increase the risk of heart disease and early death. However, a specific type of pine bark from the coast of southern France is showing potential for improving metabolic syndrome and protecting heart health.
Researchers say that French maritime pine bark is rich in disease-fighting natural pigments known as oligomeric procyanidins, or OPCs. Extensive research has demonstrated that these powerful antioxidant compounds decrease the systemic chronic inflammation that contributes to conditions such as metabolic syndrome (not to mention arthritis, autoimmune disease, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and more).
Influential study reveals how pine bark works to defeat metabolic syndrome
In a recent study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Phytotherapy Research, 64 adults with metabolic syndrome were given 150 mg a day of French maritime pine bark extract for six months.
The findings were extremely encouraging.
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The researchers reported that participants in the pine bark group experienced decreases in blood sugar levels of over 14 percent – thereby reducing their risk for type 2 diabetes.
Waist circumference, as well, dropped by more than 7 percent, demonstrating that the pine bark extract promoted the loss of unhealthy abdominal fat. (Note: excess abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, raises the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes).
And, there was more.
The pine bark extract group also displayed lower levels of triglycerides, along with increased amounts of beneficial HDL cholesterol and decreased blood pressure – when compared to a matched control group of 66 patients.
Finally, the antioxidant properties of pine bark extract were revealed – with the team reporting that the compound reduced markers of oxidative stress by almost 35 percent.
Clearly, the study demonstrated the ability of pine bark extract to regulate blood glucose, blood pressure and fats – thereby helping to combat metabolic syndrome.
While metabolic syndrome is primarily associated with sedentary lifestyle and excess caloric intake, chronic inflammation can also be a trigger.
Let’s take a closer look at pine bark extract’s ability to safely and effectively target inflammation.
Pine bark extract reduces the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules
Disease-fighting OPCs in pine bark are not only antioxidant (helping to scavenge dangerous free radicals), but have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-allergenic, antibacterial and anti-aging effects as well.
Scientists say that OPCs combat chronic inflammation specifically by reducing the expression of nuclear factor-kappa B, a pro-inflammatory molecule that contributes to atherosclerosis and other ills.
OPCs in pine bark have also been found to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that is implicated in heart disease.
In fact, combating cardiovascular disease is where pine bark really shines – with over five decades of cell, animal and clinical studies and reviews corroborating its remarkable ability to protect heart health.
Pine bark extract “declares war” on atherosclerotic plaque and blood clots
When it comes to fighting heart disease, French maritime pine bark extract rolls up its sleeves and gets to work.
Not only do OPCs in pine bark have proven effects to reduce atherosclerotic plaque, but they have anti-platelet effects, meaning they can reduce the “stickiness” of blood platelets and the tendency of blood to form into dangerous clots.
Pine bark extract has been shown to be a particular boon to smokers, with studies showing that it specifically targets smoking-induced platelet aggregation.
In addition, pine bark is particularly effective at improving the health of the endothelium, the fragile, all-important lining of the blood vessels. And pine bark extract has the beneficial ability to dilate small blood vessels in patients with heart disease, helping to promote better blood flow.
Pine bark has been shown to improve the left ventricular ejection fraction, a measure of the heart’s ability to pump blood.
Some studies even suggest that pine bark has an action similar to that of ACE inhibitors, pharmaceutical medications for lowering blood pressure.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in European Heart Journal, patients with coronary artery disease received 200 mg a day of pine bark extract for eight weeks. The researchers concluded that the pine bark improved endothelial function – while reducing markers of oxidative stress.
BONUS benefits: Relieve allergies and asthma, combat colds and sharpen cognitive function with pine bark
Pine bark’s benefits extend beyond the cardiovascular system.
Pine bark has been shown to alleviate allergic symptoms – as well as symptoms of the common cold – by inhibiting mast cell response and suppressing the release of histamine that is at the root of allergic reactions.
In one study, the use of pine bark helped asthmatic participants to significantly cut their use of steroids and inhalers.
In addition, researchers have found that pine bark extract increases endurance and performance in trained athletes. However, you don’t need to be an elite athlete to benefit from yet another of pine bark extract’s effects – the ability to reduce post-exercise pain and alleviate muscle cramping.
Holistic healers may also recommend pine bark to ease a range of disorders including jet lag, irritable bowel syndrome, tinnitus, vertigo and psoriasis.
Finally, researchers have found that pine bark can improve cognitive function and memory.
How can I take pine bark for maximum benefit?
French maritime pine bark, from the tree botanically known as Pinus pinaster, is often sold under the trade name Pycnogenol. Natural health experts recommend using a high-quality formulation containing 85 to 90 percent OPCs.
Bonus: pine bark, which was used in the seventeenth century as a remedy for scurvy, helps to improve the absorption of vitamin C, while regenerating and protecting vitamins C and E in the body.
To promote heart health and enhance circulation, natural healers may recommend dosages of 200 to 360 mg of pine bark extract a day.
Pine bark extract is sometimes advised in conjunction with Centella asiatica, also known as gotu kola.
Of course, don’t take pine bark extract without first discussing it with a trusted integrative healthcare provider – especially if you take blood thinning medication.
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the U.S., while metabolic syndrome continues to affect a daunting percentage of Americans. But, natural substances like pine bark extract simple represent a safe, non-toxic and effective defense against these dangerous health conditions.
Sources for this article include:
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