Pycnogenol: Antioxidant Superstar? (Part 1)

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Pinus pinaster, more commonly known as Pycnogenol, is a lesser-known antioxidant that has quietly hit the nutrition supplement scene. Pycnogenol is extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine, grown in coastal southwest France. This supplement contains a handful of phytonutrients, including proanthocyanidins, bioflavonoids, and organic acids. And while you may not have heard too much about this supplement, its list of possible health benefits is quite impressive. Let’s take a look.

Pycnogenol may help people with diabetes in a couple of different ways. First, there’s evidence that it can directly impact blood glucose levels. In one study published in Diabetes Care in 2004, people with Type 2 diabetes who took Pycnogenol had both lower fasting and postmeal blood glucose levels. Another study showed that taking Pycnogenol along with metformin (brand name Glucophage and others) and acarbose (Precose) lowered blood glucose levels even more than metformin and acarbose alone.

Pycnogenol may play a role in eye health, too, by preventing or slowing down the progression of diabetic retinopathy. In France, Pycnogenol is commonly prescribed to people with retinopathy. The theory is that the proanthocyanidins in this supplement strengthen small blood vessels in the retina, making them more elastic, which helps improve circulation. A study with 30 people who had diabetic retinopathy showed promising results. Participants were given 50 milligrams of Pycnogenol three times daily, while a control group of 10 people took a placebo. After two months, the folks in the Pycnogenol group had either no worsening of their retinopathy or showed some improvement compared to the placebo group, whose retinopathy progressed.

Blood pressure
Pycnogenol may help lower blood pressure. A study of 58 people with high blood pressure taking a calcium-channel blocker drug showed that adding 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol each day helped to lower blood pressure levels, enabling the people to reduce their dose of blood pressure medicine. Researchers believe that Pycnogenol’s antioxidants help blood vessel walls to relax, or dilate, thereby helping to lower blood pressure.

Next week, we’ll look at the role of Pycnogenol in fighting deep vein thrombosis and asthma, as well as side effects and dose recommendations for the supplement.

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