Hoboken, NJ—Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract may be effective in managing hyperactivity and impulsivity in children aged six to 12, according to a new study. And the "super antioxidant" delivers the benefits without many of the adverse side effects experienced with the common therapy of methylphenidate, a prescription stimulant. The study, which measured observations and feedback from teachers and parents, was published in the Journal of Functional Foods.

About the research

Researchers tested 88 children for 10 weeks. Participants were split into three groups: placebo, methylphenidate, and Pycnogenol. The children supplemented at breakfast with one or two capsules, depending on their weight. Children under 66 pounds supplemented with 20 mg/day of Medikinet (methylphenidate) or 20 mg/day of Pycnogenol. Those over 66 pounds supplemented with 30 mg/day of Medikinet (methylphenidate) or 40 mg/day of Pycnogenol.

Teachers and parents filled out questionnaires at baseline and after five and 10 weeks. One form was the ADHD Rating Scale (ADHD-RS), which assesses nine inattention and nine hyperactivity/impulsivity items.

Findings on ADHD after 10 weeks

Researchers reported the Pycnogenol group showed:

  • 29% decrease in overall ADHD rating scale (vs. 45% decrease with methylphenidate vs. 5% decrease with placebo)
  • 34% decrease in hyperactivity/impulsivity (vs. 36% decrease with methylphenidate vs. 1% increase with placebo)
  • 25% decrease in inattention (vs. 52% decrease with methylphenidate vs. 9% decrease with placebo)

Parents reported the Pycnogenol group showed:

  • 11% decrease in overall ADHD rating scale (vs. 28% decrease with methylphenidate vs. 1% increase with placebo)
  • 12% decrease in hyperactivity/impulsivity (vs. 28% decrease with methylphenidate vs. 2% increase with placebo)
  • 10% decrease in inattention (vs. 29% decrease with methylphenidate vs. 1% increase with placebo)
Children in the study who supplemented with the pharmaceutical showed improvement in ADHD behavior yet experienced up to five times more adverse effects than those who supplemented with Pycnogenol.Specifically, according to a press release, loss of appetite and unwanted weight loss was seen with the pharmaceutical, but not with Pycnogenol.

"In pediatric ADHD and especially in the primary school environment, Pycnogenol was proven to be a good alternative for methylphenidate for those willing to wait a few weeks for effects, a fortiori when considering its almost complete lack of adverse effects as opposed to methylphenidate," the researchers concluded.

"ADHD is a perplexing condition and treatment can be frustrating for many parents and children," commented author and natural physician, Dr. Fred Pescatore, in the release. "Parents often feel reluctant to continue with prescription pharmaceuticals due to common side effects. Management of ADHD behavior is pivotal to improved school performance and self-esteem, especially during a child's formative years. This study suggests a promising natural path option."

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