Pycnogenol Reduces Heart Disease Risk in Diabetics
There is no direct clinical evidence to support the claim that pycnogenol reduces heart disease risk in diabetes.
Pycnogenol comes from the French Maritime Pine Tree (Pinus maritima) and is a rich source of proanthocyanidins. Websites such as newsman.com claim that pycnogenol is a ‘giant of nutrition’ and lists heart disease and diabetes as benefits of this ‘giant’.
There is a single human clinical trial looking at the use of pycnogenol supplementation to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes (1). The study was done as part of the program for Integrative Health at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Forty-eight subjects with dual diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and mild to moderate hypertension were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial. All subjects received an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor) for control of their blood pressure which is standard practice. Subjects were then randomized to receive pycnogenol (125mg daily) or placebo for 12 weeks. Pycnogenol resulted in significant improvements in diabetes, LDL-cholesterol and BP as compared to control subjects.
The study had a number of important limitations. The authors commented that the study had very strict inclusion/exclusion criteria which limits the generalizability of the results to the general population. Secondly, the study sample size was very small and combined people from different ethnic groups. This again limits the generalizability of the findings. Thirdly, the study had a short duration of follow-up and focused on risk factors for heart disease and not actual cardiovascular outcome data such as myocardial infarction.
The authors conclude that the study confirms the hypothesis that pycnogenol improves diabetes control and reduces BP lowering medication use and ‘may favour a reduction in cardiovascular disease in individuals with type 2 diabetes’ but does not show that pycnogenol reduces heart disease in diabetes.