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Originally published October 2 2008

Pycnogenol Reduces Heart Disease Risk in Diabetics

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Extracts of French maritime pine bark can lower blood pressure in diabetes patients, thereby reducing their risk of heart attacks, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona and published in the journal Nutrition.

Researchers tested the effect of the pine bark extract Pycnogenol, a product of Horphag Research, which funded the study. Diabetic patients were given either a placebo or 125 milligrams of Pycnogenol once per day for 12 weeks. The average participant age was 60, and all patients were also taking blood pressure medication in the ACE inhibitor family.

The researchers found that 58.3 percent of patients taking Pycnogenol achieved a stable systolic blood pressure, in contrast to only 20.8 percent of those in the placebo group. Use of ACE inhibitors was also decreased by 50 percent in the Pycnogenol group.

LDL cholesterol also decreased significantly more in the Pycnogenol group, with decreases of 11.6 and 12.7 mg/dL more after eight and 12 weeks, respectively.

Beyond the heart health benefits, Pycnogenol appeared to assist in the management of diabetes itself. Patients in the Pycnogenol group experienced a 23.7 mg/dL decrease in fasting blood sugar levels, in contrast to only a 5.7 mg/DL among those in the placebo group.

"These data confirm the hypothesis that Pycnogenol improves diabetes control, reduces anti-hypertensive medicine use, and may favor a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk in individuals with Type 2 diabetes," the researchers wrote.

The researchers were unable to determine why the pine bark extract led to improvements in these health markers. They suggested that Pycnogenol may suppress the production of a blood vessel-constricting protein known as serum endothelin-1, thus improving blood flow and decreasing blood pressure. The extract might also function chemically in the same fashion as an ACE inhibitor.

Prior studies have also suggested that pine bark extract can be beneficial in treating asthma, chronic venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, diabetic leg ulcers and osteoarthritis.

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