Life Extension Magazine August 2006
Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure: A Little-Known Failure of Conventional Medicine
By Heather S. Oliff, PhD
By Dave Tuttle
Grape Seed Extract Optimizes Blood Pressure, Enhances Endothelial Function, and Decreases Oxidative Stress
The C12 peptide is not the only natural agent that effectively supports healthy blood pressure levels. Grape seed extract, which is already known to confer a wealth of health benefits, contains high concentrations of polyphenols, potent antioxidants that naturally increase blood vessel dilation. This dilation naturally increases blood flow while decreasing blood pressure.9
A recent study sought to ascertain the effects of administering grape seed extract to prehypertensive subjects. Twenty-four patients with a mean blood pressure of 130/79 mmHg were treated for four weeks with either placebo or 150 mg or 300 mg of a standardized, polyphenol-rich grape seed extract. Both doses of grape seed extract significantly reduced the subjects’ blood pressure compared to baseline levels. The researchers thus concluded that grape seed extract may be beneficial in lowering the blood pressure of people who are prehypertensive.9
In addition to benefiting individuals with prehypertension, grape seed extract may help to improve impaired endothelial function, an initiating factor in heart disease. In an important laboratory study, grape seed extract helped to inhibit the synthesis of a protein associated with endothelial dysfunction and mortality, while also promoting the dilation of blood vessels.10 These findings led the researchers to propose that grape seed extract may be a critical nutrient for restoring impaired endothelial function and thus protecting against cardiovascular disease, America’s number-one killer.
Exciting research findings suggest that, in addition to its positive effects on blood pressure and endothelial function, grape seed extract may protect against another known contributor to cardiovascular disease: the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Elevated levels of blood lipids that occur following meals are a known risk factor for heart disease, in part due to their increased susceptibility to oxidative changes. When adult volunteers consumed a grape seed extract in combination with a meal, they demonstrated lower levels of post-meal oxidative stress, and the LDL particles in their blood were more resistant to the dangers of oxidative modification. This led the researchers to conclude that grape seed extract may further reduce cardiovascular risk by protecting LDL particles from oxidative stress.11
Grape seed extract is considered safe and well tolerated. A formal toxicity assessment that evaluated the impact of chronic high doses of grape seed extract in rats found no adverse treatment-related changes.12
Pomegranate Extract: Natural Blood Pressure Support with Potent Antioxidant Properties
Pomegranate is fast becoming known as one of the healthiest foods on earth, largely due to its beneficial effects on cardiovascular health.13 While many people drink pomegranate juice, pomegranate extracts may hold even greater benefits.
The benefit of supplementing with a pomegranate extract rather than drinking the juice or eating the fruit is that the extract, unlike the juice, contains virtually no sugar or calories, and requires no refrigeration to maintain optimal quality. Interestingly, commercial pomegranate juice and whole fruit extracts contain beneficial phytonutrients that are not obtained from eating the pomegranate fruit itself.17 In particular, punicalagins, the primary antioxidant found in pomegranate, are concentrated in the husk and in the juice of the whole fruit.17 While some pomegranate products are standardized to contain high levels of ellagic acid—an antioxidant and phytonutrient with anti-cancer potential—focusing on ellagic acid alone is unlikely to provide for optimal synergy among the phytonutrients found within the pomegranate.18 Emerging research suggests that products standardized in punicalagins confer the greatest benefit by providing the highest levels of pomegranate antioxidants.
Scientists are now studying pomegranate extracts to uncover the many benefits they may have for human health. Pomegranate contains an array of beneficial phytonutrients such as phenolic compounds and tannins, including punicalagins, which are unique to pomegranate. Several compounds in pomegranate are potent antioxidants and ACE inhibitors.13 Researchers have determined that oxidative stress can disrupt the balance of vasoconstricting and vasodilating biochemicals in the endothelium, contributing to high blood pressure and endothelial dysfunction. By quenching oxidative stress, antioxidants may help prevent vasoconstriction, lower blood pressure, and promote healthy endothelial function.14 Scientists believe that pomegranate, a potent source of antioxidants, may promote healthy blood pressure levels by enhancing the activity and preventing the degradation of an important vasodilating agent. These benefits may also lead to improvements in endothelial function.15 Additionally, scientists have reported that regular pomegranate consumption helps to protect serum LDL against oxidation, conferring additional cardiovascular protection.16
Let Food Be Thy Medicine
In the fifth century BC, Hippocrates, considered by many to the father of science-based Western medicine, proclaimed, “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” This remarkable insight still resonates today.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that the three food products just described—milk-derived C12 peptide, grape seed extract, and pomegranate extract—can help support normal blood pressure in aging adults safely and effectively. This combination of nutrients, in addition to other lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise, may help people with prehypertension to avert the onset of full-blown high blood pressure.
Along with lifestyle modifications, this triad of nutrients offers complementary support for people who cannot adequately normalize their blood pressure using pharmaceutical therapy alone, thus enabling them to safely restore their blood pressure values to healthy ranges.
By taking advantage of an integrative approach using the best of conventional and alternative medicine, you can safeguard your cardiovascular system against the silent damage incurred by hypertension.
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