The Blood Pressure Fix that Doesn't Work

In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that pine bark extract, a powerful antioxidant, has no effect in lowering blood pressure or in reducing other risk factors for heart disease. Pine bark extract has been thought to be heart beneficial because it was believed to have an antioxidant mechanism that interferes with several biological mechanisms that cause blood pressure to rise.

The Study

But in the Stanford study of 130 overweight people who had high blood pressure but were not on medication for the problem, half the volunteers were randomly assigned to get a placebo, or dummy pill, and half were given a 200 mg per day dose of pine bark extract. After 12 weeks, researchers found no difference between the two groups in the participants' blood pressure levels or in any of the other risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol, blood glucose, body weight, and C-reactive protein levels. Both groups remained virtually the same throughout the study.

Antioxidant Supplements

Pine bark extract is just the latest in a long line of antioxidant supplements that have been proven ineffective against heart disease. Vitamins A, C, and E, long touted to be heart protective, have not been found to live up to their hype and one study has even showed that vitamin A may actually increase the chances of developing lung cancer in smokers.

Proven Ways to Protect Your Heart

What does help protect your heart is eating a healthy diet of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables, all of which contain rich amounts of antioxidants. Here are more foods to include in your diet to stay heart healthy:

  • Monounsaturated fats-Stick to healthy fats found in olive oil or canola oil and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and seeds. Avoid saturated and trans fats, including butter, margarine and shortening, which can raise cholesterol levels.
  • Foods high in protein-Lean meat, poultry, and fish are your best sources of protein. Choose cold-water fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and mackerel, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides.
  • Legumes-Beans, peas, and lentils keep you feeling satisfied and are also rich in protein and contain less fat and no cholesterol, making them good substitutes for meat.

One more tip: To reduce your chances for cardiovascular disease, throw away your saltshaker. Eating a lot of salt can contribute to high blood pressure. To stay heart healthy, the American Heart Association recommends eating less than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day, about one teaspoon.



Science Daily. "Pine-Bark Extract Has No Effect on Blood Pressure, Study Finds."

Reuters. "Pine bark extract offers no heart benefit: study."

Harvard School of Public Health. "Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype."