High blood pressure (hypertension,) with blood pressure over 140/90, is a risk for stroke, kidney disease and heart disease. Alternative therapy is beneficial in hypertension, especially in early, mild hypertension that doesn’t need prescription treatment. Certain foods and herbs have chemical and relaxation functions similar to anti-hypertensive medications.
A specific cause of essential hypertension cannot be given. There are multiple factors causing essential hypertension, including heredity, age, body weight, environment and diet. Treatment includes weight loss (when needed,) reduction of alcohol and reduction of salt and fat intakes.
Human diets tend to be high in sodium and low in potassium, calcium and magnesium. The recommended dose of sodium is less than 2400 mg. People on Western diets get 3300 mg sodium and people in China get 7200 mg. The recommended dose of potassium is 3400 mg. People on the Western diet get 4100 mg of potassium per day and people in China get 1800 mg.
The following foods are listed as being high in sodium: canned soups, dry soup mixes, canned meats and fish, instant cooked cereals, salted butter and margarine, processed meats, prepared mixes, snack foods, salad dressings and fast foods.
ACE (acetylcholine converting enzyme) inhibitors block the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II. This helps reduce the release of aldosterone from the adrenals, which increases the water and salt re-absorption by the kidneys.
Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activators reduce blood pressure by relaxing the muscles in the walls of blood vessels. NOS increases the oxidation of arginine to l-citrulline and nitric oxide (NO.) NO deficiency can cause hypertension. The peptides in fermented milk are eNOS activators. (Blood pressures can be reduced by the peptides formed by lactic acid ferments.) Tea and hawthorn increase NO production and lower blood pressure. Arginine supplementation increases NO production. The daily intake is about 3-6 g/day. Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is a cofactor necessary for the production of NO.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is “low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat but abundant in calcium, magnesium, fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products and includes whole grain products fish, poultry and nuts.” This diet is beneficial in hypertension.
Chlorogenic acid (CGA) is a family of chemicals found in plants such as coffee beans, apples, pears, tomatoes, blueberry, potatoes, peanuts, Chinese parsley and eggplant. The daily human dose is up to 1 gm/day. CGA is anti-hypertensive, anti-carcinogenic, hypoglycemic and anti-oxidant. CGA levels are high in an extract of green coffee beans. CGA can increase homocysteine blood levels. CGA is an antioxidant.
The crushing of garlic (Allium sativum) releases medicinal effects. Garlic has a number of effects and is degraded by cooking. The strongest anti-hypertensive effect of garlic is in 2-6 hours and lasts for 24 hours. There is evidence that garlic is antioxidant. Not all studies show that garlic reduces blood pressures.
Onion (Allium cepa) has been shown to be anti-hypertensive in numerous animal studies. The active ingredients may be destroyed by cooking. Quercetin, a phenol, is one of onion’s active ingredients which have been shown as anti-hypertensive.
Tea (Camellia sinensis) contains green tea catechins (GTC) which reduce blood pressure. GTCs are ACE inhibitors.
Natto, a fermented product of boiled soy beans with Bacillus natto, produces ACE inhibitor activity. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) enriched tempeh can lower blood pressure.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) can lower blood pressure.
Hawthorn (Crataegus) lowers blood pressure and has benefit to the cardiovascular system. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) causes dilation of blood vessels and lowers blood pressure in animal studies.
Bioactive short chain peptides from hydrolyzed fish protein (such as sardine peptides) lowers blood pressure by ACE inhibition. Fish oil omega-3, containing DHA and EPA, lowers blood pressures.
CONCLUSION: There are a number of functional foods and nutraceuticals which reduce blood pressures, through ACE inhibitor activity, modulation of NO activity, free radical scavenging and improved endothelial function.
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