A special blend of sesame and rice bran oils could be a potential non-drug option for treating high blood pressure and cholesterol, according to new research.
The study included 300 people in New Delhi, India, with hypertension. A third of the participants used a common drug called nifedipine; another third used an ounce of a specially made blend of sesame and rice bran oils to cook with every day; and the final third took the drug and cooked with the oil blend. All three groups used their assigned treatments for 60 days.
The researchers found that all three groups of people -- including those not taking the drug -- had a decrease in their blood pressure levels.
Specifically, the participants who took the drug and cooked with the oil had greater gains in their blood pressure levels. The systolic blood pressure decreased by 16 points, on average, among people who just took the drug, while it decreased 14 points, on average, for people who just cooked with the oil. Meanwhile, it dropped 36 points for people who took the drug and cooked with the oil.
Meanwhile, diastolic blood pressure decreased by 12 points, on average, among people who just took the drug, and 11 points, on average, among those who just cooked with the oil. It dropped 24 points for people who used both the drug and the oil.
The oil blend also seemed to make a difference on cholesterol levels. Researchers found that those who cooked with the oil blend had 26 percent lower "bad" cholesterol levels and 9.5 percent higher "good" cholesterol levels by the end of the study period. Meanwhile, those who cooked with the oil blend and took the blood pressure-lowering drug had 27 percent lower "bad" cholesterol levels and 10.9 percent higher "good" cholesterol levels.
But people who didn't cook with the oils didn't experience any cholesterol benefit.
"Rice bran oil, like sesame oil, is low in saturated fat and appears to improve a patient's cholesterol profile," study researcher Dr. Devarajan Sankar, M.D, Ph.D., a research scientist at Fukuoka University Chikushi Hospital in Japan, said in a statement. "Additionally, it may reduce heart disease risk in other ways, including being a substitute for less healthy oils and fats in the diet."
However, researchers noted that this oil blend was uniquely tailor-made for the study and people shouldn't think that trying to make their own rice bran oil and sesame oil blends will produce the same effect. But still, the findings could lead to a future nondrug option using these oils for high blood pressure and cholesterol, they said.
The research was presented at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions, and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal; therefore, the findings should be considered preliminary. The oils were donated by Adani Wilmar Limited in India, but researchers didn't receive any outside funding for the study.
For more foods that could help you get your blood pressure under control, click through the slideshow:
Research presented at a meeting last year of the American Heart Association shows that eating three kiwis a day is linked with decreased blood pressure. That study included 188 men and women age 55 and older, with slightly high blood pressure. They were instructed to eat three kiwis a day, or an apple a day for eight weeks. The researchers found that the people who ate the kiwis had lower systolic blood pressure levels than those who ate the apples. Kiwis are known to be rich in lutein, which means they have antioxidant properties. Flickr photo by whologwhy.
A 2005 study in the journal Hypertension found that it's possible to get the blood pressure-lowering effects from potassium-containing foods, instead of just from a potassium supplement. Researchers from St. George's Medical School in London found that people who consumed potassium citrate -- which is found naturally in food -- has the same effects in decreasing blood pressure in people with hypertension as those who took potassium chloride, which is only available as a supplement, Harvard Medical School reported. Flickr photo by robin_24.
Watermelon is not just refreshing, it contains a bounty of nutrients including fiber, lycopenes, vitamin A and potassium, according to the Mother Nature Network. And, a study from Florida State University researchers shows that an amino acid found -- called L-citrulline/L-arginine -- in watermelon could also have blood pressure-lowering effects. The researchers had nine people with prehypertension take 6 grams of the L-citrulline/L-arginine amino acid a day over a six-week period. They found that the study participants had lower blood pressure, as well as better functioning of their arteries. Flickr photo by Gudlyf.
Spuds may get a bad rap in the foodsphere, but a small study presented last year at a meeting of the American Chemical Society showed that the purple-hued root vegetables have blood pressure-lowering powers that are nearly as effective as oatmeal, without packing on pounds. The study included 18 people with high blood pressure. They ate six to eight purple potatoes (including the skins!) twice a day, for a month-long period. The researchers found that the study participants' systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped at the end of the research period. (Though, it should be noted that this was just an observational study, and the potato-eaters' blood pressure was not compared to people who did not eat purple potatoes during the study.) Flickr photo by Taransa.
Eating a lot of tofu and other soy foods -- like soy nuts, miso, edamame, tempeh and soy milk -- is linked with decreased blood pressure, WebMD reported. The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, included 5,000 people whose diets were tracked over 20 years. The researchers found that the ones who consumed the most isoflavones -- found in soy, as well as peanuts and green tea -- had lower systolic blood pressure than those who consumed the fewest isoflavones, according to WebMD. Flickr photo by FotoosVanRobin.
Chocolate is linked with a lower BMI -- and it could be beneficial for people with hypertension. A 2010 review of studies in the journal BMC Medicine showed that flavanols, which are found in chocolate, seemed to promote the dilation of blood vessels, which in turn can lower blood pressure. "Flavanols have been shown to increase the formation of endothelial nitric oxide, which promotes vasodilation and consequently may lower blood pressure," study researcher Dr. Karin Ried, of the University of Adelaide in Austria, said in a statement. "There have, however, been conflicting results as to the real-life effects of eating chocolate. We've found that consumption can significantly, albeit modestly, reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure but not for people with normal blood pressure." Flickr photo by Siona Karen.
If you love a little heat with your food, it could be doing your blood pressure a favor, too. A 2010 study in the journal Cell Metabolism showed that capsaicin -- the spicy ingredient in chili peppers -- could help to lower blood pressure in rats with hypertension. However, the researchers from the Third Military Medical University in China noted that the results need to be replicated in humans. Flickr photo by Trostle.