A new study has found that Pycnogenol, an extract from French Maritime Bark, may help with vision health in diabetics.
Nutrition for Optimal Wellness | Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS | According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 24 million Americans have diabetes and it now costs our healthcare system more than $174 billion per year (1). Of the many health complications, such as nerve damage in the hands and feet (called diabetic neuropathy) and heart disease, that face diabetics, one of the most debilitating is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels cause a breakdown of blood vessels in the eye that result in swelling (macula edema) and a loss of vision.
According to the National Eye Institute, 40% to 45% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes already have some stage of diabetic retinopathy (3). Now a new study (4) has found that Pycnogenol, an extract from French Maritime Bark, may help with vision health in diabetics.
In the study, 40 patients with diagnosed diabetes for at least four years were given either 150 mg of Pycnogenol (taken after breakfast) or placebo for two months. During this time, they had their visual acuity checked with an eye chart. They also had the status of their diabetic retinopathy checked with an ophthalmic examination before the study, at the end of the supplementation, and then after three months to see if the Pycnogenol supplementation benefits (if any were seen) were sustained.
Patients with mild retinal edema (with retinal thickness below 500 micrometers) and patients with moderate retinal edema (with retinal thickness higher than 500 micrometers) both had improvements in visual acuity from 14/20 to 17/20 after two months of supplementation. This improvement was sustained at the end of 3 months. There was no change in the control group.
For retinal edema, a 31% reduction in swelling was seen in the Pycnogenol group (2.3 to 1.6 on a scale from 1-6), which was sustained at the end of three months. There was no change in the control group.
Retinal blood flow increased by 25% in the Pycnogenol group (36 to 45 centimeters per second) and 33% (36 to 48 cm/s) by the end of the third month, with no change in the control group. Finally, retinal thickness decreased by 11% in the Pycnogenol group after two months (478 to 421 micrometers), compared to only 2% in the control group (474 to 465 micrometers).
There was a 35% reduction in retina swelling (2.3 to 1.5), a 24% increase in retinal flow (34 to 42 cm/s) that increased to 29% after three months (34 to 44 cm/s). There was a 23% decrease in retinal thickness (544 to 419 micrometers) that further decreased to 25% after three months (544 to 408 micrometers). Those in the control group saw no significant changes in any parameters except for a 4% decrease in retinal thickness after three months (563 to 541 micrometers).
For the researchers, “Our study suggests that Pycnogenol may be especially beneficial for diabetic patients during early stages of retinopathy for stopping progression of the disease and restoring vision lost to this time.”
Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA. You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at mailto:PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.CompleteChiropracticHealthcare.com
1. Number of People with Diabetes Continues to Increase” from the CDC Website www.cdc.gov/Features/DiabetesFactSheet/
2. Bhagat, N., Grigorian, R.A., Tutela, A., et al. Diabetic macular edema: Pathogenesis and treatment. Surv. Ophthalmol. 54:1–32, 2009.
3. “Diabetic Retinopathy” posted on www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy.asp
4. Steigerwalt R. Pycnogenol Improves Microcirculation, Retinal Edema and Visual Acuity in Early Diabetic Retinopathy . Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1089/jop.2009.0023
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