The rapid increase in type 2 diabetes has triggered a search for natural products that can help patients manage the condition and cut the costs of expensive drugs.
Diabetes has already increased by one-third during the 1990s, due to the prevalence of obesity and an ageing population. There are currently more than 194 million people with diabetes worldwide but if nothing is done to slow the epidemic, the number will exceed 333 million by 2025, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
Author Peter Rohdewald from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Muenster said the new study was prompted by communication from patients reporting no need for insulin following supplementation with Pycnogenol.
Along with colleagues at the Guang An Men Hospital of Chinese Medical Science Research Institute in Beijing, the researcher carried out a new open and controlled, dose-finding study on patients with mild type 2 diabetes, aged 28-64 years of age with a BMI of between 22-34. The 18 men and 12 women were on a regular diet and exercise programme.
The researchers report that the patients were able to significantly lower their glucose levels when they supplemented with 50-200 mg of the supplement.
"Many patients look for complementary therapies, such as natural ingredients, to further reduce their risk of long-term complications from this condition," said Rohdewald.
"The favourable research results on the glucose-lowering effect of this natural extract encourages further mechanistic and clinical studies with Pycnogenol to explore its potential in obtaining metabolic control in patients with mild type 2 diabetes."
High blood sugar damages blood cells and blood vessels. Diagnostic blood chemistry in this study suggests that entailing problems arising from elevated blood sugar are significantly reduced. Pycnogenol did not affect insulin levels in diabetic patients.
The supplement, extracted from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France, has also been shown to improve cardiovascular problems prevailing in diabetics. Studies have found Pycnogenol reduces high blood pressure, platelet aggregation, LDL (bad)-cholesterol and enhances circulation.
The new study is published as a letter in the current issue of Diabetes Care (27:839).