Pine Bark Extract: Scurvy Remedy and Nutritional Supplement

Consumers are turning to diet supplements for optimal health. Pine bark extract is one of them, and it is prized for its antioxidant qualities. It is made from the bark of the Landes (or maritime) pine. This product has been patented in France and is marketed under the name, “Pycnogenol.”

History of Pine Bark Extract

Pine bark extract has been credited with saving the life of French explorer Jacques Cartier’s crew. In 1534, Cartier’s ship was stranded in ice near Quebec City, Canada. The crew had become ill with scurvy, which is caused by insufficient levels of Vitamin C in the diet. Symptoms of scurvy include spots on the skin, as well as spongy gums and tooth loss. If left untreated, scurvy can be fatal.

The crew was cured of scurvy when they took the advice of a Native American who suggested that they drink a tea made from pine bark and needles. The antioxidant properties in the pine bark make it easier for the body to absorb Vitamin C.

Pine Bark Extract for Health

Antioxidants help to repair and protect the cells in your body. Vitamins A, C and E are sources of antioxidants. The antioxidants in pine bark extract are called “oligomeric proanthocyanidins (“OPCs”), and are a very powerful variety.

Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which are the result of exposure to pollutants in the environment. The free radicals contribute to aging and cause tissue damage.

Free radicals have been linked to heart disease, but the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that taking this supplement does not affect the risk of heart disease. The results of smaller studies have indicated that pine bark extract may be helpful in reducing high blood pressure and aid in weight loss, but other research has found no such health benefits for people taking the supplement.

OPCs can help to reduce inflammation in the body. It has been used as a natural remedy for edema (excess fluid in the body) and varicose veins. People living with arthritis may find relief from their symptoms by consuming pine bark extract.

This supplement can also help to improve the health and appearance of the skin. Pine bark extract is recommended as an anti-aging product.

Where to Find Pine Bark Extract

You can buy pine bark extract in health food stores, as well as from online retailers. It is available in a capsule and a powder form. The usual dose of this supplement is 50 mg, and the supplement can be taken between meals or with food.

Antioxidants No Substitute for a Healthy Diet and Exercise

foods with antioxidant propertiesAntioxidants are compounds that are naturally present in foods. They are commonly thought to help prevent disease by helping to fight free radicals, which are formed during normal respiration as well as when the body is exposed to contaminants in the environment like cigarette smoke. If a person doesn’t eat enough antioxidant-rich foods, the free radicals will travel throughout the body, destroying the cells as they go.

The free radicals are responsible for one of the risk factors for heart disease, which is the oxidation of cholesterol. When oxygen is combined with low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol), this process leads to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries. If the plaque buildup becomes significant enough, it can lead to a heart attack.

A number of studies have been conducted to determine whether taking antioxidant supplements can help to improve health and lower the risk of heart attack. The results indicated that Vitamin E didn’t play a major role in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

How to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Better ways to lower your risk of developing heart disease and stroke instead of relying on antioxidants are as follows:

  • Eating a low-fat, high fiber diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking

Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods for Good Health

Foods containing antioxidants and beta carotene definitely have a choice in a heart-healthy diet. By choosing to include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your eating plan, you are getting much-needed fiber and nutrients on your plate. Excellent or good sources of Vitamin E include:

  • Brown rice
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Oatmeal
  • Papaya
  • Seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Watercress
  • Wheat/wheat germ
  • Whole Grains

You can get beta carotene in your diet by choosing red, dark orange and dark green vegetables and fruits.

When you visit the Produce section of your local grocery store, be sure to choose fruits and vegetables that are rich in color. They are also packed with much-needed nutrients for you.

4 Cholesterol-Reducing Foods You Need to Know About

What you choose to eat can play a part in lowering your cholesterol levels. Here are four cholesterol-reducing foods you should be eating:

1. Fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids that help to lower cholesterol levels. If you can’t or don’t want to eat two servings of mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna or salmon, you can get the benefits from taking Omega-3 supplements.

2. Oatmeal has soluble fiber, which helps to reduce the low-density cholesterol in the body. You can get the same health benefits by including apples, pears, prunes and kidney beans.

3. Walnuts and almonds contain polyunsaturated acids, which aid in keeping blood vessels healthy. A serving of an ounce or two each day will help to keep yours healthy.

4. Olive oil contains antioxidants. Including this food in your diet regularly will help to lower your “bad” cholesterol without affecting the “good” cholesterol in your body.

Eat Chocolate to Prevent Second Heart Attack?

Attention all chocoholics! If you have had a heart attack, eating the sweet stuff may help to prevent a recurrence. A study conducted by researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute were looking at whether eating chocolate affects the risk for heart disease.

Antioxidants, such as the flavonol in cocoa, may help to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow throughout the body. The 1,169 participants in the study were between 45-70 years of age. All of them had had at least one heart attack. They were asked a series of questions about their diet.

The results indicated that study participants who ate chocolate were less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack. Before you run out to the store to stock up on the sweet stuff, consider that the study results are not the same thing as a clinical trial where the participants are more closely monitored.

Vitamin E and Heart Health

Does taking Vitamin E supplements lower your risk of heart disease? It may be too soon to tell. Vitamin E is found in seeds, nuts, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. It is also added to some ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

Since this Vitamin contains antioxidants and may help to reduce inflammation, it makes sense that making sure you eat enough of it will help to lower your risk of heart disease. While some studies have found that ingesting large amounts of Vitamin E will have a positive effect on heart health, some clinical trials concluded that the Vitamin was not an effective weapon in the fight against heart disease.

When considering the results of the clinical trials, do keep in mind that the participants were older (age 50 and up). More research needs to be done with younger subjects before writing off Vitamin E entirely.