(Dec. 2, 2009) - HOBOKEN, NJ - According to the National Institute of Health, 40 percent to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes already have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy, damage to the retina caused by leaky blood vessels, is a major cause of blindness in people with diabetes and is one of the most feared diabetic complications. In fact, up to 80 percent of all patients who've had diabetes for 10 years or more will experience some form of diabetic retinopathy.
A recent study published in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics reveals Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, can improve microcirculation, retinal edema and visual acuity in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.
"Previous research has shown that Pycnogenol® may reduce the progressing advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy," said Dr. Robert Steigerwalt, a lead researcher of the study. "While previous studies focused on the latent stages of diabetic retinopathy, the aim of this new study was to show the protective effects of Pycnogenol® in the early stages of this growing diabetic complication."
The randomized controlled study, conducted by G D'Annunzio University in Italy, investigated a total of 46 diabetic patients over a period of three months. The Pycnogenol® treatment group consisted of 24 patients, with 22 patients placed in a placebo treatment group. Each of the patients had been previously diagnosed with diabetes for at least four years prior to participating in the study and their blood glucose was well controlled by diet and oral anti-diabetic medication. Patients had early stage retinopathy characterized by capillaries in the eye leaking fluid into the retina causing swellings. At this stage only minor bleedings into the retina occur and damage to light-sensing cells may still remain largely reversible.
Subjects were treated with three 50 mg Pycnogenol® tablets (total 150 mg. of Pycnogenol®) or placebo tablets in the morning after breakfast over a period of three months. Following treatment with Pycnogenol®, the major positive observation of this study was visual improvement, which was subjectively perceived by 18 out of 24 patients in the Pycnogenol® group. Testing of visual acuity using the Snellen Chart (the standard eye chart used by eye care professionals to measure visual acuity) showed a significant improvement from baseline 14/20 to 17/20 after two months of treatment with Pycnogenol®. There were no improvements found in the control group.
The retina is considered swollen when the diameter of the macula exceeds 500 micro meters and treatment with Pycnogenol® significantly decreased the swellings below that level, as judged by the high resolution ultrasound imaging used in the study. Furthermore, the blood flow velocity in capillaries nourishing the light sensing cells improved. The authors suggest that both effects account for the improved vision of patients. In the control group, retinal edema was not relieved, blood flow velocity remained unaffected and no visual improvements occurred.
In contrast, all 22 subjects in the control group maintained the same diabetic macular swellings as they were diagnosed with at the beginning of the study.
"Pycnogenol® has been intensively investigated for decades to stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy and help patients to maintain their remaining eye sight," said Dr. Steigerwalt. "Our study suggests that Pycnogenol® taken in the early stages of retinopathy may enhance retinal blood circulation accompanied by a regression of edema, which favorably improves vision of patients. Pycnogenol® may be particularly beneficial for preventing this complication in diabetic patients, based on the large number of individuals who were diagnosed when the disease had already significantly progressed."
Over the past decade, numerous studies have been published on Pycnogenol's® health benefits for people living with diabetes. Most notably, research results on five clinical studies with over 1,000 diabetes patients showed that Pycnogenol® has the ability to seal leaky capillaries in the eye. This capability impedes the progression of vision loss in patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy.
Pycnogenol® is a natural plant extract originating from the bark of the maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France and is found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, which offer extensive natural health benefits. The extract has been widely studied for the past 40 years and has more than 220 published studies and review articles ensuring safety and efficacy as an ingredient. Today, Pycnogenol® is available in more than 700 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products worldwide. For more information, visit www.pycnogenol.com.
Natural Health Science Inc. (NHS), based in Hoboken, New Jersey, is the North American distributor for Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all) brand French maritime pine bark extract on behalf of Horphag Research. Pycnogenol® is a registered trademark of Horphag Research Ltd., Guernsey, and its applications are protected by U.S. patents #5,720,956 / #6,372,266 and other international patents. Horphag Research Ltd. Is the recipient of the 2008 Frost & Sullivan North American Health Ingredients Excellence in Research Award. NHS has the exclusive rights to market and sell Pycnogenol® in North America and benefits from more than 35 years of scientific research assuring the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol® as a dietary supplement. For more information about Pycnogenol® visit our Web site at www.pycnogenol.com.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.