Pycnogenol® has a role in Sports Nutrition


Horphag Research-Geneva, Switzerland

Physical exercise goes along with a dramatically increased oxidation of nutrients to meet the shooting up energy demand. Numerous physiological systems and many biochemical interactions are taking place during exercise. Yet, the most significant and performance limiting interplay is taking place between the cardio-respiratory system and skeletal muscle. This is obvious already from the typical 10 to 20-fold increase in inhaled oxygen over rest. The cardio-pulmonary system adjusts in a manner to match oxygen and carbon dioxide transport to the metabolic requirements of muscle tissues [Richardson et al., 1999]. Increased oxygen demands during physical activity result in a rapid compensatory increase in cardiac output and redistribution of blood flow to skeletal muscles. The blood flow characteristics play a key logistic role for oxygen supply to muscle, return of carbon dioxide to the lungs and delivery of lactic acid to the liver. Only sufficient muscle oxygenation warrants aerobic energy generation and prevents anaerobic build-up of lactic acid. The blood flow characteristics play a dominant role for peak muscle performance and integrity.

Pycnogenol® relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow

Nitric oxide (NO) is the key mediator signaling dilatation of blood vessels to ensure optimal blood flow. NO contributes to increased exercise-induced blood perfusion of organs and plays a key role for coordinating vascular response to exercise. Recent clinical trials have indicated that exercise training is associated with a sustained and systemic increase in the capacity for endothelial nitric oxide production [Gliemann et al., 2014]. Pycnogenol® stimulates the enzyme “endothelial nitric oxide synthase” (eNOS) for enhanced generation of NO from the precursor molecule L-arginine. The effect of Pycnogenol® on endothelium dependent vasodilatation and blood flow was investigated in a study with 16 young healthy volunteers in a double blind, placebo controlled fashion [Nishioka et al., 2007]. Endothelium-dependent forearm artery dilatation and corresponding blood flow increase was initiated by infusion of increasing amounts of neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which stimulates activity of the eNOS enzyme to enhance generation of NO. After two weeks of supplementation with Pycnogenol® the endothelium could generate significantly more NO to increase forearm blood flow by up to 46% higher than at baseline. This effect of Pycnogenol® was significant as compared to placebo which did not increase forearm blood flow. Further control experiments using an L-arginine antagonist proved that Pycnogenol® did indeed enhance vasodilatation by stimulation of endothelial NO synthesis. The result of this study is impressive because it demonstrates enhanced endothelial function in healthy individuals. Thus even healthy people will benefit from supplementing with Pycnogenol®, resulting in better blood flow and tissue perfusion.

Pycnogenol® enhances blood micro- circulation

Two clinical studies have shown that Pycnogenol® causes vasodilatation and consequently improves blood microcirculation and therefore tissue perfusion [Wang et al., 1999; Kohama, 2004]. Application of specific sensors to the skin of the legs demonstrated an increased presence of oxygen and decreased carbon dioxide after consumption of Pycnogenol® over a period of six weeks [Belcaro et al., 2005]. This finding suggests that Pycnogenol® improves tissue perfusion supporting lasting aerobic muscle activity during any kind of physical exercise. The enhanced NO synthesis facilitated by Pycnogenol® was shown to also normalize blood pressure as well as blood platelet aggregability which help to keep blood viscosity within healthy physiological range [Hosseini et al., 2001; Pütter et al., 1998]. Pycnogenol® was further shown to improve red blood cell membrane fluidity and prevent oxidative stress-induced hemolysis [Sivonova et al., 2004]. In conclusion, Pycnogenol® will contribute to ameliorated blood flow and oxygenation of muscle.




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