According to the latest research findings, supplements of extracts from French maritime pine bark, Pycnogenol, may reduce blood pressure and the use of blood pressure medication among diabetics.
Blood pressure control was achieved in 58 per cent of study participants, and a halving of the use of medication among 48 participants randomly assigned to daily supplements of the pine bark extract or placebo for 12 weeks.
The results of the new study are of particular importance for diabetics who are reportedly two to four times more likely to suffer from heart disease than non-diabetics.
Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Sherma Zibadi from the University of Arizona, said: “These data confirm the hypothesis that Pycnogenol improves diabetes control, reduces antihypertensive medicine use, and may favour a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk in individuals with type 2 diabetes.”
Indeed, previous studies have reported potential health benefits for the extract, including hypertension, asthma, chronic venous insufficiency, osteoarthritis, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes management, and diabetic leg ulcers.
Assessing the results
The new study recruited diabetic subjects with an average age of 60 and randomly assigned them to receive daily supplements of Pycnogenol (125 mg) or placebo for 12 weeks in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with parallel-group design. All subjects were receiving pharmaceutical anti-hypertension treatment (angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors).
At the end of the study, Zibadi and co-workers report that 58.3 per cent of subjects in the Pycnogenol group experienced blood pressure control, defined as attaining a stable systolic blood pressure, compared to 20.8 per cent in the placebo group.
Moreover, use of ACE inhibitors was reduced by 50 per cent in the group receiving the pine bark extract
Improvements in measures of diabetes control were also recorded, with a 23.7 mg/dL reduction in fasting blood glucose levels in the Pycnogenol group, compared to only 5.7 mg/dL in the placebo group.
Improvements in LDL-cholesterol, a marker of cardiovascular health, were recorded in the pine bark extract-supplemented group. After eight and 12 weeks of supplementation, decreases of 11.6 and 12.7 mg/dL were observed, respectively, compared with placebo.
In attempting to understand the benefits of the pine bark extract on cardiovascular health of the diabetics, the researchers noted that the blood pressure lowering effects may be due to a suppression of serum endothelin-1, a protein that restricts blood vessels and reported to be found in higher levels than normal in type 2 diabetics and hypertensives.
On the other hand, the researchers could not rule out the potential of an inhibitory effect on ACE, which could improve blood flow and subsequently blood pressure. Finally, other studies have reported a potential benefit from Pycnogenol on the production of the potent vasodilator, nitric oxide (NO).
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