Despite the positive findings, the researchers do not advocate the ad hoc consumption of yellow green peas. They explained that a complex protein purification process is needed to activate what is otherwise a dormant vegetable benefit.
The pea protein would need to be mixed with certain enzymes into a food additive or nutritional supplement in liquid or pill form. In that form, Aluko said, it might be easier to tolerate than blood pressure drugs, given the pea protein's natural sourcing. A natural treatment, he said, would also eliminate the risk for overdosing.
He said that human trials are underway and that, if successful, a pea-based therapy might be available in two to three years.
Dr. George Bakris, director of the hypertensive diseases unit at the University of Chicago, described the finding as "fascinating."
"This is not the first time that the secret to blood pressure control has been found in Mother Nature," Bakris noted. "Ten years ago, a substance was isolated in celery, for example, that also had a controlling effect. But here what they seem to have shown is that there is a substance in this pea, when cleaved, which works in a similar fashion to the ACE inhibitors that have been out for the last 25 years. So basically, they have a natural substance that works like standard drugs we know a lot about."
"Of course, we have to see what the human studies show, " Bakris cautioned. "But if the results are as compelling as they were in animals, then this would potentially be a very reassuring, exciting and positive development as it is certainly very difficult to control blood pressure in people with kidney disease."
The American Heart Association has more on hypertension.
SOURCES: Rotimi E. Aluko, Ph.D., assoc
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