Pine bark boosts brain health

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Memory loss and attention span can be improved with pine bark
Memory loss and attention span can be improved with pine bark
French maritime pine bark, which is also known as Pinus Pinaster, may help boost attention span, memory, decision making and overall cognitive function, a new study has claimed.

Average attention span in the west had fallen to five minutes from 12 minutes just a decade ago, said researchers writing in the Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences.

The dramatic decline in attention span had been attributed to stress and modern life pressures. However, the decline was significantly reduced in test subjects taking part in a peer-reviewed study at Italy’s Chieti-Pescara University, which was headed by nutrition and medical expert Dr Fred Pescatore.

Test subjects

The 59 test subjects, who were aged 35 to 55, were split into a placebo group of 29 and a control group of 30. Those in the control group were given Pycnogenol, which is a natural extract from French maritime pine bark, for 12 weeks.

At the end of the trial, the moods of those in the test group had improved by 16%, their mental performance by 8.9%, attention span by 13.4% and oxidative stress levels had reduced by 30%, scientists said.

“What is unique about this study is that it observes how Pycnogenol can positively impact mood as participants reported feeling less anxiety and a stronger sense of content,”​ Pescatore said.

“Participants who supplemented daily with Pycnogenol demonstrated stronger performance in daily mental tasks, such as dealing with money, managing people and coping with stress,”​ he added.

Some evidence suggested the extract also had a positive effect on managing and improving some attention parameters in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, claimed Dr Gianni Belcaro, lead researcher on the study.

Positive effects

“Studies have showed positive effects in improving the results of specific cognitive tests in students and in improving several aspects of cognitive health in those over 60 years-old,” ​he added.

The trial followed worrying figures that showed deaths from dementia had risen by 52% since 1990 to 49,349 in the UK in 2013.

Dementia is now the third most common cause of death in the UK – overtaking lung cancer – according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.

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