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Health News Archive 412 - Diabetic Complications
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Pine Bark Extract Speeds Up Diabetic Ulcer Healing

A daily supplement of the French maritime park bark extract, Pycnogenol, could speed up the healing of diabetic foot ulcers by 75 per cent, says a new Italian-German study.

Impaired blood circulation in diabetics may cause tissue damage and discoloration (necrobiosis) which leads to development of ulcers, which are prone to infection and difficult to heal, said study researcher, Dr. Gianni Belcaro from Chieti-Pescara University in Italy.

“In this pilot study, oral Pycnogenol improved microcirculatory parameters and, consequently, ulcer healing, as indicated by the reduction in ulcer area and symptoms compared with the control group,” wrote Belcaro in the the journal Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis.

The researchers randomly assigned 30 diabetic patients suffering from severe damage of blood vessels associated with their diabetes (microangiopathy) to one of four groups for six weeks.

Group 1 participants received 150 mg pine bark extract as oral treatment and 100 mg from capsules as powder placed on the ulcerated area (topical); Group 2 participants received oral treatment with 150 mg pine bark extract; Group 3 received 100 mg of topical treatment and Group 4 received no medical care, other then the same ulcer care as the other subjects (washed and cleaned with warm water and local disinfectant).

At the end of the study the researchers found that group 1 patients supplemented with oral and topical pine bark extract experienced a 74.4 per cent decrease in leg ulcer size. Groups 2 and 3 experienced a 41.3 and 33 per cent decrease in ulcer size, respectively, while the control group's ulcers (Group 4) decreased by only 22 per cent. No adverse effects were reported, said the researchers.

The mechanism behind the effects was not investigated fully but the researchers proposed a role for the extract in improving glucose metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects, or improved circulation.  This last mechanism appeared to be favored by the researchers.

“The pine bark extract groups all showed a significantly increased oxygen presence in the skin and a significantly lowered carbon dioxide level,” noted Dr. Belcaro. “Better circulation decreases the chance of developing ulcers.”

“If left untreated, damage to blood vessels from diabetes then manifests in typical circulatory problems such as hypertension, from which 50 per cent of type II diabetics suffer,” he said.

While these results appear promising significantly more research is needed to confirm these results. Indeed, the researchers themselves called for larger, controlled studies to test if the pine bark extract could offer a “safe alternative to existing therapies”.

Matt Hunt, science officer at British charity, Diabetes UK said: "Lower limb ulcers in diabetes is often a neglected area and this research shows that combining treatments looks an effective method of treatment in area that can lead to more serious consequences such as amputation."

Source: Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis (Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 318-323, doi: 10.1177/1076029606290133)

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