A daily dose of the branded ingredient Pycnogenol for eight weeks was associated with improvements in alertness, memory and mood, according to findings published in the PubMed-listed journal Panminerva Medica.
Researchers from Pescara University propose that the extract's benefits may be linked to improvements in blood flow to the brain.
"The study we present here is the first to investigate the effects of Pycnogenol in [?shy;] young healthy students," wrote researchers, led by Dr Gianni Belcaro.
"Pycnogenol statistically performed better than controls in a wide series of cognitive performance tests consciously selected evaluating sustained attention, episodic memory, spatial working memory, mental flexibility and planning.
"More interestingly, in this study the cognitive performance of the subjects was evaluated in a real challenging situation like the university examinations," they added.
The Italian researchers recruited 108 Italian university students aged between 18 and 27, and randomly assigned them to receive either a daily 100 mg dose of Pycnogenol or placebo for eight weeks. Computer-assisted methods were used to assess the students' mental performance.
Results showed that student in the Pycnogenol group showed improvements in attention, memory and mood, while levels of anxiety decreased by 17%.
According to Dr Balcaro and his co-workers, the benefits of the supplements may be related to the antioxidant potency of the ingredient, as well as improved blood circulation.
"This study indicates a role for Pycnogenol to improve cognitive function in normal students," wrote the researchers.
"It may be the beginning of a series of studies indicating possible uses of Pycnogenol for cognition."
The study adds to an earlier study with the pine bark extract in seniors. Results published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology by scientists from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, indicated that a daily dose of 150mg of Pycnogenol over a three month period produced "significantly improved" memory scores in the subjects.
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