High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly one-third of the U.S. population. Why is high blood pressure such a big deal? Because it usually presents no symptoms whatsoever, while at the same time putting you at very high risk for serious medical problems like heart attack, stroke, heart failure and death.
As those with high blood pressure know, the first line of treatment usually entails lifestyle changes — diet, exercise, stress reduction and supplementation with heart-protective nutrients like CoQ10 and magnesium.
While these adjustments often do the trick in reducing mild to moderately high blood pressure, many physicians still insist that their patients start using blood pressure-reducing medications, as well. The most common medications include diuretics, alpha blockers, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and calcium-channel blockers. While usually effective, these drugs do have a slew of side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, leg cramps, insomnia, dizziness, headache and heartburn.
Thanks to the unpleasant nature of these side effects, it’s no wonder it becomes such a big deal when research unveils new natural options to reduce blood pressure effectively, and one of the most recent discoveries is a sesame and rice bran oil blend.
Researchers in India recently presented their study findings at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions.
In the study, the researchers divided 300 people (160 men and 140 women, average age 57) with mild to moderately high blood pressure into three groups. Group one was treated with a calcium-channel blocker; group two received the sesame/rice bran oil blend; and group three received the calcium-channel blocker and the oil blend.
Checking the participants’ blood pressure every 15 days for a total of 60 days, researchers found that all three groups experienced significant drops in their systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure readings. But those who were taking the medication and oil blend saw the greatest reductions.
Specifically, the systolic readings dropped an average of 14 points for the oil-only group, 16 points for the medication-only group, and 36 points for the medication/oil combo group.
As for diastolic readings, the oil-only group experienced an average drop of 11 points, the medication-only group a 12-point reduction, and the medication/oil group a 24-point drop.
In the oil users, cholesterol levels also took a hit — for the better. Those who used the oil blend alone saw a 26 percent drop in harmful LDL cholesterol and a 9.5 percent increase in the protective HDL form. The participants who used the medication and oil blend experienced a 27 percent reduction in LDL and a 10.9 percent rise in HDL. The medication-only group saw no change in cholesterol.
While the group using the medication and oil blend certainly had the greatest results, it is exciting to see that the oil alone provides similar results as the medication alone. This could potentially be great news for patients who reluctantly continue to use blood pressure medications despite debilitating side effects. While no one is advising that these people stop using meds right away and turn to sesame and rice bran oil to keep their blood pressure in check, perhaps in the near future this oil blend could be a safe, natural, side effect-free alternative to prescription drugs.
Healthy Fats, Healthy Blood Pressure
To what do we owe these significant results? According to the researchers, it’s the healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats in these oils, as well as plentiful antioxidants like sesamin, sesamol, sesamolin and oryzanol.
Unfortunately, the oil blend used in the study, which is called Vivo, is not yet commercially available. But both types of oil are available commercially on their own.
And if you have mild high blood pressure and would like to reduce your numbers naturally, or if you have hopes of stopping your medication eventually, you should increase your intake of unsaturated fats in general.
Like the oil blend discussed in this study, many other foods and oils contain heart-healthy fats that improve blood pressure, cholesterol and overall heart health. Some of the best foods that fit this profile include:
- Olive oil
- Raw nuts, particularly almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts
- Oily fish, especially salmon, trout, herring, sardines and mackerel
- Peanut butter (make sure you choose a natural variety that does not contain hydrogenated oils or sugar)
- Raw seeds like sunflower and pumpkin