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Life Extension Magazine March 2010

Reduce Blood Pressure—Naturally
What Americans Can Learn from Traditional Cultures about Managing Hypertension

By William Davis, MD

French Maritime Bark Extract

Numerous studies point to the efficacy of a novel antioxidant compound of proanthocyanidins and bioflavonoids isolated from bark of the French maritime pine that grows along the southern coast of France.

An Everyday Dietary Danger

A University of Arizona study documented 50% reduced need for blood pressure medication in diabetic participants taking 125 mg of this compound per day.57 Interestingly, there was a 23.7 mg/dL drop in blood sugar and 0.8% reduction in hemoglobin A1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar control). Another study demonstrated reduced need for calcium blocker medication in participants given 100 mg per day.58

French maritime bark extract exerts its antihypertensive effects by blocking the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)—similar to the mechanism of the prescription ACE inhibitors enalapril and lisinopril—enhancing endothelial (vessel lining) responsiveness, and blocking the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine).59


Anthocyanins are a class of plant flavonoids that confer the red, purple, and blue color to cranberries, blueberries, eggplant, grapes, red wine, pomegranate, and other similarly colored fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins are proving to be powerful standouts for health effects among the many thousands of flavonoids and polyphenols identified to date.

A Finnish study of 72 middle-aged subjects examined the effects of consuming two servings of berries daily (alternating schedule of 100 g whole bilberries and a 50 g crushed lingonberry nectar; or black currant or strawberry purée and cold-pressed chokeberry and raspberry juice) compared to a non-berry containing calorie-matched control. Anthocyanins represented the dominant flavonoid at 275 mg of the total polyphenols of 837 mg per day. The berry group experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 7.3 mmHg, along with 5.2% increase in HDL.60 A study of 50 mL (almost 2 oz) of anthocyanin-rich pomegranate juice reduced blood pressure by about 12%, in addition to reducing carotid intima-media thickness.61

Like French maritime bark extract and vitamin D, anthocyanins are natural inhibitors of the angiotensin-converting enzyme that increases blood pressure.62 The production of the natural and powerful artery-relaxing agent, nitric oxide, is also increased by anthocyanins.63

Some of the richest sources of anthocyanins are elderberries, chokeberries, and bilberries, which are difficult to find in the US, but may be obtained as nutritional supplements and extracts.

An Everyday Dietary Danger

What food can cause devastating inflammatory intestinal destruction that, if unrecognized, can lead to disability and death?18

Increase blood sugar higher and faster than table sugar?30

Trigger autoimmune inflammation in the thyroid?31

Create intestinal bloating, cramps, and alternating diarrhea and constipation, often labeled irritable bowel syndrome?32

Weaken the muscle controlling food exit from the esophagus to the stomach, resulting in reflux esophagitis (heartburn)?33

Worsen schizophrenia in susceptible individuals?34

Contribute to behavioral outbursts in children with autism?35,36

Increase the risk of or worsen various inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, dermatitis herpetiformis, systemic lupus, pancreatitis, and increase measures of inflammation? 37-42

Cause unexplained anemia, mood swings, fatigue, fibromyalgia, eczema, and osteoporosis?38,43-45

That food is wheat. Yes, the ubiquitous grain we are urged to eat more and more by the USDA, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Diabetes Association. Wheat is among the most destructive ingredients in the modern diet, worse than sugar, worse than high-fructose corn syrup, worse than any fat. What other common food can result in such an extensive list of diseases, even death?

Few foods occupy the exalted position that wheat has gained, earning over 20,000 research publications in the medical literature over the past 30 years, many studies detailing the destructive and sometimes fatal nature of this common dietary product. Celiac disease alone affects more than 2 million Americans.46 The medical literature is filled with case reports of deaths from this disease,47 often after years of struggle with incapacitating intestinal dysfunction and encephalopathy (brain inflammation).

What happens when you remove wheat from the diet? Experience at our clinic has shown that the majority of people quickly shed 20-30 lbs in the first few weeks, selectively lost from the abdomen (what I call “wheat belly”); blood sugar plummets; triglycerides drop up to several hundred milligrams, HDL increases, LDL drops (yes, wheat elimination is a means of achieving marked reduction in LDL, especially the small, heart disease-causing variety); and C-reactive protein plummets. In addition, intestinal complaints like pain, gas, and bloating improve or disappear; gastroesophageal reflux often disappears; rashes improve; inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis improve; diabetes (adult or type 2) is more easily controlled; and behavioral disorders and mood improve.

In people who have celiac disease, the meticulous avoidance of wheat gluten and gluten from other sources, including rye, spelt, and barley, will be necessary. But there are millions of Americans who are suffering wheat-intolerance in some form, from skin rashes to arthritis to depression, who are wheat-sensitive but remain unaware.

Beware of the food industry’s efforts to capitalize on wheat intolerance with products known as “gluten free.” These are generally foods that don’t trigger the inflammatory response of wheat, but still cause high blood sugar, weight gain, and other abnormalities.


In addition to magnesium’s capacity to help manage asthma attacks, migraine headaches, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia of pregnancy, heart rhythm disorders, and preserve kidney function,64,65 magnesium supplementation has been conclusively shown to reduce blood pressure.66 Magnesium deficiency contributes an even larger blood pressure-increasing effect in the setting of a modern American diet deficient in magnesium and rich in fructose—a situation that increases inflammation and the potential for metabolic syndrome.67

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

In one recent study, magnesium supplementation reduced systolic blood pressure by 5.6 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.8 mmHg.68 People with heart disease may derive even greater effects. A study of 50 participants with advanced heart disease demonstrated a 9.0 mmHg drop in systolic pressure with 500 mg elemental magnesium supplementation, despite serum magnesium levels in the normal range.69

The blood pressure-reducing effects of magnesium supplementation may be especially marked in those with low serum magnesium levels. A study of supplementation in diabetic participants starting with low serum magnesium levels demonstrated an astounding 20.4 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure and an 8.7 mmHg drop in diastolic pressure with 450 mg of elemental magnesium daily.70

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

In addition to the triglyceride- and cardiovascular event-reducing effects of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, these fascinating oils also modestly reduce blood pressure. Daily intake of 1,000-3,000 mg of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA reduces systolic blood pressure by about 2.1 mmHg and diastolic pressure by about 1.6 mmHg.71 These blood pressure-reducing effects are accomplished via blocking the angiotensin system, promoting arterial relaxation (normalization of endothelial dysfunction), reduced production of inflammatory mediators, and reduced production of artery constricting factors.72


Red wine in modest quantities has been demonstrated to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease.73 Much attention has focused on the polyphenol resveratrol, originating from red wine and grapes as a principal source of benefits, including potential life-extending effects due to activation of the sirtuin genes.74


Resveratrol has been shown to inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme as a means to modestly reduce blood pressure,75 and also restores production of the natural artery-dilating agent, nitric oxide.76,77


In a preliminary study, this amino acid reduced systolic blood pressure 9 mmHg in subjects taking 1,000 mg twice per day.78 In addition, acetyl-L-carnitine improved insulin responses and reduced blood sugar.


Because nocturnal hypertension has been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular events,79 the effect of melatonin on nighttime hypertension has been studied.

In addition to its sleep-enhancing effects, melatonin taken at or before bedtime reduces blood pressure during sleep. One study examined the effects of nightly dosing of 2.5 mg in 16 men; melatonin reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure during sleep by 6 and 4 mmHg, respectively.80 Another study of 38 men demonstrated that 2 mg of a controlled-release melatonin preparation reduced systolic pressure by 6 mmHg and diastolic pressure by 3 mmHg during sleep.81


The virtual absence of hypertension in traditional cultures suggests that high blood pressure is, for most of us, a situation we create with modern diet and lifestyle. Reverting back to basic foods, especially reducing or eliminating wheat grains, cornstarch, and sugars, can reduce blood pressure substantially. Select nutrients, many of which restore nutrients that were more readily obtained by traditional eating habits but are lacking in the modern day diet, can also reduce blood pressure. While not everyone starting such a program during adulthood can hope to entirely avoid hypertension, these steps might help minimize the potential of developing this dangerous condition.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

Dr. William Davis campaigns for the cause of heart disease reversal. He practices cardiology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is author of the book, Track Your Plaque (iUniverse, Inc., 2004). Dr. Davis can be contacted through

Editor’s Note

In this article, Dr. Davis has provided us with an abundance of natural methods to lower blood pressure.

As Dr. Davis noted in the introduction, even modest blood pressure readings above 115/75 sharply increase cardiovascular disease risk. Yet conventional doctors are allowing their aging patient’s blood pressure to reach dangerous levels of 140/90 before initiating anti-hypertensive therapy.

In fact, the home page of a pharmaceutical company’s web site ( defines high blood pressure as 140/90 or higher.

This drug company is acting against its own economic interest by limiting the number of people who are candidates for its anti-hypertensive drug, while disseminating erroneous lethal information to the public.

We urge most Life Extension members to maintain their blood pressure at 115/75 (or lower) using natural methods first. If blood pressure remains stubbornly high, we suggest a safe and effective class of anti-hypertensive drugs be used called angiotensin II receptor antagonists. One of these drugs we have recommended for over a decade is called Cozaar® and it should be taken twice a day to maintain 24-hour control over blood pressure. Another drug in this class called Benicar® claims 24-hour blood pressure control with once a day dosing.

You should not trust any medication to provide 24-hour blood pressure control. If you are prescribed Benicar® or any other anti-hypertensive, use an at-home blood pressure monitoring device to make sure the drug is providing all-day control of blood pressure at the optimal range of 115/75 or lower. A major error in using anti-hypertensive drugs is that they wear off later in the day allowing blood pressure to spike to dangerously high levels.

You can obtain reliable at-home blood pressure monitors at your local pharmacy, or you can order one by phone by calling 1-800-544-4440.


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