Pea Protein Lowers Blood Pressure

Pea Protein Shows Blood Pressure-Lowering Potential
September 2011

Proteins isolated from peas may reduce blood pressure in both humans and rats, says a new study from Canada that adds to the cardiovascular benefits of the proteins.
According to findings published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, three weeks of consuming a supplement containing a pea protein hydrolysate was associated with a 5 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Other researchers have reported that a mere 2 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure could lead to six percent fewer stroke-related deaths, a four percent lower rate of heart disease deaths and a three percent reduction in overall deaths among Americans.
Researchers from the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences and the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba in Canada also report data from rat studies, which indicated that the pea protein hydrolysate may inhibit the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) by about 20%.
ACE inhibitors work by inhibiting the conversion of angiotensin I to the potent vasoconstrictor angiotensin II, thereby improving blood flow and blood pressure.
Pea protein is extracted from the yellow garden pea. However, consumption of the peas in their natural state would not produce the same potential health benefits as the protein extract because the potentially beneficial proteins exist in an inactive state in natural peas, and must be activated by treatment with special enzymes.
The Manitoba-based researchers used rats genetically predisposed to develop high blood pressure (so-called spontaneously hypertensive rats), and fed them the pea protein at doses of 100 and 200 mg per kg of body weight. The maximum reduction in systolic blood pressure was measured at 19 mmHg four hours after consuming the ingredient.
Pea protein-fed rats also displayed lower levels of angiotensin II, as well as a 50% reduction in rennin mRNA levels.
"By controlling the output of rennin from the kidneys, the [pea protein] may attenuate blood pressure increases through lowering the activity of [the rennin-angiotensin system, which plays a key role in the regulation of blood pressure] and level of angiotensin II concentration," they added.
"It is important to note that the approximately 50% decrease in renal rennin mRNA expression is similar to the observed 45% decrease in plasma angiotensin II concentration," they added.
Smaller reductions were observed in the human study, which involved seven volunteers aged between 30 and 55, and with systolic blood pressure ranging from 124 to 170 mmHg. Volunteers were given either 1.5 or 3 g of the pea protein for three weeks.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; Published online ahead of print.

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