Volunteers needed in study of supplement, blood pressure

Medical school researchers are continuing to recruit volunteers for an ongoing study to examine whether a supplement made from pine bark extract can help reduce the blood pressure of people who are at mild to moderate risk for heart disease. The study will also assess whether the supplement has other positive effects on the cardiovascular system.

Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and the principal investigator for the study, said pine bark extract and other natural supplements claim to improve health. However, most of those claims haven't been tested in sound clinical trials, he added.

Pine bark extract contains numerous compounds that function as antioxidants—chemicals that help repair and protect cells from damage caused by the processes that breakdown food in the body and by exposure to environmental pollutants. Initial investigations suggest the compounds in pine bark may improve blood vessel wall function.

For the study, the researchers are recruiting 130 people who will be randomly assigned to take either a pine bark supplement or a placebo for 12 weeks. Those who are selected will be assessed five times over 12 weeks for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, among other measurements.

Eligible participants must have blood pressure levels of at least 125/80, not be taking blood pressure or diabetes mediciations and have an elevated body mass index (a body-fat measure based on height and weight) between 24 and 36.

More information on the Understanding Pine Bark Extract as an Alternative Treatment Study is available online at http://ppop.stanford.edu/PineBark.html or by calling 724-9293.

The study is funded by Toyo Shinyaku, a Japanese company that markets the pine bark supplement under the name Flavangenol.