Pycnogenol: Brain Booster

December 21, 2015

Pycnogenol: Brain Booster 

 Reference: Journal Neurosurgical Sci Dec 2015, Medical News Today 

 Published Dec 21, 2015 

 Want to boost your memory 37%?    Wow, you mean I wouldn’t forget to pick up eggs on the way home? And what on earth is pycnogenol? First of all, pycnogenol is an extract of French Maritime Pine trees. Pycnogenol is a member of the tannin family that comes from various pine trees, but also some tropical trees and some grapes. They effectively protect the plant from invasion by insects. 

In humans they do something else – they set off reactions that push the human body into healthy, regenerative behaviors. Pycnogenol is a powerful antidote to oxidative stress. And what’s that? It is effectively the imbalance that happens in the body when high energy electrons escape from the electron transport chain in mitochondria where you are making energy, and make “reactive oxygen species”.   This can make damage all over the cell, particularly dangerously to DNA.   But there are hundreds of breakdown products that show up and are beginning to be measured.   Your body has means of soaking up those escaped electrons, CoQ10 for example does that. 

Controlling oxidative stress is an important goal to all of us. What did they do in this study that made pycnogenol look so good?   The researchers at Chieti-Pescara University in Italy took 77 volunteers, age 55-70, and measured their ability to make decisions, memory, and other cognitive functions.   Both control and study groups did various “healthy” lifestyle changes (8 hours sleep, no later than 1030, less sugar, salt, and caffeine, 20 minutes of exercise), but the study group got 100 mg of Pycnogenol a day. That was the sole difference between the two. First, the study group showed a 28% decrease in oxidative stress. As a consequence of that, they also showed memory ability increasing 37% versus a 10% decline in the controls.   

Decision-making ability increased 71% in the study group but declined 5% in the controls. Attention span increased 41% versus 2 % increase in the controls.   This all sounds too good to be true. What is interesting is that this study effectively mirrors a similar study done in healthy professionals published a year earlier by Belcaro. You can probably duplicate much of this yourself. A remarkable way to increase oxidative stress is to push a huge amount of pure glucose into your system. Eat a whole lot of sugar or white flour and see how alert and awake you feel. Do you get sleepy?   Other ways to increase oxidative stress are to be poisoned with heavy metals, to overexercise, to barbecue at high heat so that you flood your system with AGEs, advanced glycation end products. Or, you can test oxidative stress with test kits from various labs. The marker that most folks use is 8-hydroxy-deoxyGuanosine (oxidative damage to DNA). 

 WWW. What will work for me?   I’m going to measure my own oxidative stress and learn how to do the test.   And it sounds like pycnogenol is a rising star in the brain health field. It probably needs to be added to the list of what we do to keep our brains healthy.


 Pop Quiz.

  1. Pycnogenol is an extract of Palm Trees from tropical France. T or F                   Answer:  False. You weren’t paying attention.   It’s PINE trees, not palm. And France isn’t tropical – its better, it’s “Mediterranean”
  1. Pycnogenol helps quench oxidative damage. T or F                    Answer:  That would be true
  1. Healthy professionals can be shown to have better memory and attention span with pycnogenol. T or F                         Answer:    True
  1. Baby Boomers in their 70s have been shown to have a 15, a 25, a 37, a 41% boost in memory on pycnogenol?                      Answer:  37%
  1. Pysnogenol has effects on attention span? T or F                    Answer:   True.
  1. Oxidative damage can be measured. T or F                        Answer:  Try pronouncing 8-hydroxy-deoxyGuanosine – and you are true.