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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bark may bite into osteoarthritis

    A UA research team has published the results of a clinical study indicating the benefits of the pine bark extract Pycnogenol in treating symptoms of osteoarthritis.

    Ronald Watson, a public health professor, led the research team, with funding provided by Horphag Research Inc., a Swiss pharmaceutical company that holds patents on the uses of Pycnogenol.

    The extract, a

    Americans like to take pills to solve their problems.

    -Ronald Watson
    public health

    flavonoid, has been around for use for around a decade as a dietary supplement, Watson said.

    It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that has proven useful in treating high blood pressure and heart disease, and found in many vitamin preparations and other over-the-counter health products, he said.

    The extract comes from the maritime pine, which grows on the southern coast of France.

    The study, published in this month’s Nutrition Research, was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 37 osteoarthritis patients using either the extract or a placebo.

    The trial itself took place in Masshad, a city in the northwest of Iran, because it was more economical.

    “”It costs five or 10 times less to do it in Iran rather than in Tucson,”” he said.

    After 90 days of using the supplement, 43 percent of the
    subjects reported less pain, and 52 percent reported that they had increased physical functioning, according to the study.

    The researchers used the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index to measure the symptoms.

    Now that the study has been published, Watson said, in about six months Horphag will be able to cite the usefulness of Pycnogenol in treating arthritis.

    But while it does reduce symptoms, Watson said, “”It is probably not a cure.””

    Watson has just completed another study, as yet unpublished, on Pycnogenol’s effect on patients with diabetes and said he hopes to get funding to do a study on whether the extract can help patients with heart failure. His preliminary results suggest the dietary supplement can accelerate recovery from heart failure in mice.

    Other types of flavonoids are present in fruits and vegetables such as grapes, tomatoes and carrots, Watson said.

    They are concentrated and purified in the supplements, which are generally much more popular as a source for flavonoids, he said.

    “”Americans like to take pills to solve their problems,”” Watson said.

    Flavonoids are sold without prescription as a dietary supplement because they have been shown to have little or no
    side effects.

    “”It appears to be very safe,”” Watson said.

    Horphag is interested in the practical use of the extract, while the research team is interested in both that and in the underlying biology of how it works, Watson said. The mechanism is not yet known.

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