A new research has found that a daily dose of a natural supplement made from pine bark dramatically improved a combination of harmful risk factors known as metabolic syndrome that are a precursor to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Metabolic risk factors include a large waist, high levels of fat in the blood, lowered levels of "good" cholesterol, raised blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.
People with three of the five risk factors are considered to have metabolic syndrome, which puts them in significant danger of developing life-threatening conditions, according to the Daily Express.
But a clinical study, published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, showed that the supplement Pycnogenol, an antioxidant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, could reduce these symptoms.
Nearly 90 per cent of people in the study who supplemented a healthy diet and regular exercise with the pills showed significant improvement of all metabolic syndrome characteristics, including obesity and high blood pressure.
Pycnogenol can aid people struggling with metabolic syndrome to control blood lipids, sugar and blood pressure, said lead researcher Dr Gianni -Belcaro of the University of Chieti-Pescara in Italy.
He added that the supplement was a natural approach to achieving healthy blood pressure, improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels and it ultimately offered greater cardiovascular health.
The study includes 130 people aged 45 to 55 with all five risk factors for metabolic syndrome, who were given either dummy pills or 50mg of Pycnogenol three times a day.
After six months the patients were free of all five risk factors.
Their BMI dropped from an average of 26.7 to 25.1, their glucose, triglyceride and HDL cholesterol were at healthy levels, they had a significant reduction in blood pressure and oxidative stress.
However, more than half of people taking the dummy pills still had all five risk factors even after six months of diet and exercise.
Dr Frank Schonlau, scientific director for Horphag Research, worldwide distributors of Pycnogenol, said the extract has been shown in several studies to lower blood glucose in Type 2 diabetic patients and help with kidney protection.
Pycnogenol supplementation has been associated with improved cardiovascular health, such as cholesterol reduction, blood pressure control and prevention of thrombosis, he added.
A Previous research has also found that a drink made from pine bark can also help to ease the symptoms of jet lag.