Background: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of the nutritional supplements Pycnogenol® and Centella asiatica (CA) on atherosclerosis progression in low-risk, asymptomatic subjects with carotid or femoral stenosing plaques.
Methods: The study included subjects aged 45-60 with stenosing atherosclerotic plaques (50-60%) in at least one carotid or common femoral bifurcation. Subjects were allocated into 3 groups. In Group 1 (controls), management was based on education, exercise, diet and lifestyle changes. This same management plan was used in the other two groups: Group 2 used Pycnogenol® (100 mg/day), while Group 3 used Pycnogenol® 100 mg/day plus CA (100 mg/day). The follow-up lasted 4 years. Plaque progression was assessed using the ultrasonic arterial score based on arterial wall morphology, considering plaque characteristics and the number of subjects that had cardiovascular events. Oxidative stress was also measured.
Results: Of the 413 individuals that were admitted, 391 individuals completed 4 years. Group distribution was comparable. The rate of progression of ultrasound arterial score was significantly lower in the two supplement groups (P<0.05) in comparison with controls suggesting a beneficial effect of Pycnogenol® with a significant difference in favor of the combination (P<0.05). There was a reduction in plaques progression in the supplement groups with the best effects obtained by the combination, considering maximum plaque thickness and length and echogenicity (grey scale median) (P<0.05). Plaques became generally dense (more echogenic) achieving a mixed echogenicity. The occurrence of anginal events was less than 3% in the two supplement groups (in comparison with 6.25% in controls) (P<0.05) with the best results obtained by the combination (P<0.05). The occurrence in myocardial infarctions was significantly lower for the combination (P<0.05). Minor transient ischemic attacks were also less frequent with the supplements with the best results observed with the combination (P<0.05). Events in controls - requiring hospital admission - were globally seen in 16.4% of subjects (minor events) in comparison with 8.9% of subjects using Pycnogenol® and only 3.3% of patients using the combination. At 4 years, oxidative stress in the supplement groups was lower than in controls (P<0.05, with no significant difference between groups 2 and 3).
Conclusions: Pycnogenol® and the combination of Pycnogenol® plus CA reduce the progression of arterial plaques and the progression to clinical stages. The reduction in plaques and clinical progression was associated with a reduction in oxidative stress. The results justify a larger study to define the efficacy of the combination of Pycnogenol® plus CA as a prophylaxis in preclinical atherosclerosis.