Daily supplements of a French maritime pine bark extract may ease the symptoms of menopause and ease digestive problems, says a new study with Italian university students.
A daily dose of the branded ingredient Pycnogenol for eight weeks was associated with improvements in signs and symptoms menopause including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, loss of libido and vaginal dryness, according to findings published in the PubMed-listed journal Panminerva Medica.
"Pycnogenol may arguably represent a very good basic, daily dietary supplement for menopausal women due to extended range of health benefits," wrote researchers, led byDr Gianni Belcaro from Pescara University, Italy.
"Menopausal women live at elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and the improved endothelial function related to Pycnogenol may prove helpful for women at this stage in life. Pycnogenol normalizes elevated platelet activity and was shown in high risk individuals, male and female, to help prevent thrombosis.
"Previous studies have described a lowering of blood pressure in individuals with borderline hypertension. In our study women were normotensive and we did not find alterations to blood pressure."
Dr Belcaro and his co-workers recruited 70 peri-menopausal women aged between 40 and 50and randomly assigned them to receive either placebo or the pine bark extract (100 mg of Pycnogenol per day) for eight weeks.
Results indicated that the pine bark group reported a reduction in symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, loss of libido and vaginal dryness.
"Our study extends the current knowledge on Pycnogenol for alleviation of peri-menopausal signs and symptoms,"wrote the researchers. "We show in this study that a daily dosage of 100 mg is also effective for helping women to help compensate for climacteric symptoms."
In addition, the pine bark extract was associated with a reduction in levels of oxidative stress.
Commenting on the potential mechanism, Dr Belcaro and his co-workers said that attributing the benefits of Pynogenol to its antioxidant effects would likely be "an over-simplification".
"Pycnogenol has been demonstrated in human pharmacologic studies to possess anti-inflammatory activity and improve endothelial function.
"Pycnogenol does not appear to have any phyto-estrogen-like activity and in a study with women suffering endometriosis Pycnogenol was found to have no influence on women's estrogen levels," they added.
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