Monthly Archives: September 2012

Oil Blend, Yogurt Help Blood Pressure

By Denise Mann
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

A blend of sesame and rice bran oil, or making low-fat yogurt a small part of your diet, may help your blood pressure and boost heart health, according to two new studies.

The first study showed a sesame and rice bran oil blend reduced blood pressure almost as well as a commonly used medication. And the second study found that people who routinely eat yogurt are less likely to develop high blood pressure.

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) High Blood Pressure Research 2012 meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Taken together, the two studies are very supportive of the DASH eating plan,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD. She is the Bickford Green and Gold professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and an AHA spokeswoman. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is loaded with fruits and vegetables, and is low in saturated fat and salt.

“DASH recommends two or three servings of heart-healthy fats a day, and that is where sesame and rice oil fit in,” she says. DASH also calls for two to three servings a day of fat-free or low-fat dairy products, including yogurt.

AHA: Healthy Fat Is In, Low Fat Is Out

The new studies “strengthen what we already know about diet and blood pressure,” Johnson says.

In the first study of 300 people with high blood pressure,
participants either took medication to control their blood pressure, incorporated 35 grams of the blended sesame and rice bran oil each day into their diets, or did both for 60 days. The oil blend lowered the top number of the blood pressure reading by 14 and the bottom reading by 10.8; the medication lowered the top number by 16.2 and bottom number by 12. People who took medication and used the oil had more than twice the drop in blood pressure compared to those who did one or the other.

The oil blend used in the new study is called Vivo and is not yet commercially available. Both types of oil are available commercially on their own, though.

Johnson adds that judicious use of other heart-healthy fats — including olive oil, avocado, nut butters, fatty fish, and flaxseed — may have similar benefits. (The AHA recommends limiting the total amount of fat you eat to less than 25% to 35% of your daily calories.)

In the yogurt study, about 2,000 adults without high blood pressure were followed for 14 years. The researchers found that participants were 31% less likely to develop high blood pressure if more than 2% of their daily calories came from yogurt.

They also had lower increases in the top blood pressure reading compared to people who didn’t eat yogurt.

The new findings are very much in line with what many dietitians recommend, says Despina Hyde, RD. She is a registered dietitian at New York University Langone Medical Center.

Is Yogurt Good for Your Heart?

“Yogurt is a good source of calcium, and many studies have shown that calcium can help keep blood pressure levels under control,” she says. But steer clear of full-fat yogurt or whole milk because they have more saturated fat, which can raise levels of low density lipoprotein (or “bad” cholesterol), she says.

“Overall, these studies confirm that diet does make a difference in high blood pressure control, and in some cases foods can work almost like medicine to lower blood pressure,” says Pao-Hwa Lin,PhD. She is an associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

More studies are needed to confirm the findings, she says. Lin cautions against too much of a good thing. “Even heart-healthy fats have calories,” she says. “You need to be careful how much you include in your diet, as obesity is another risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease.”

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.


New Vegetable Strategies

Only one in 10 Americans eats enough vegetables. The lack of veggies on the plate is rather shocking, considering all the wondrous tasty varieties, especially this time of year. It’s also easier than ever to serve up vegetables at mealtime with convenient frozen vegetables (which are just as nutritious as fresh) and pre-cut bags of fresh veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and butternut squash that can help streamline prep time.

The goal is to fill half our plates with vegetables and fruits – and there are reams of studies that tell us why this is important – everything from a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease to a healthier weight. Helping Americans pump up the produce is a major public health priority, and researchers are investigating new strategies to help raise veggie-loving kids and to encourage adults to change their veggie-deficit habits.

One new study in the journal Appetite suggests that if parents want kids to eat more vegetables on their plate, we should take a look at what’s in their glass. The researchers found that children, ages three to five, ate more veggies when they drank water instead of a sugary soft drink. So this is just another reason to skip the sweetened drinks with meals. You’ll not only help your kids avoid the extra calories and sugar, but you’ll be making the vegetables on their plate more appealing.

Another new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at several factors that can encourage vegetable and fruit intake during the teen years and young adulthood. The researchers found that certain attitudes and behaviors in adolescence predicted how many vegetables and fruits someone would eat five and ten years later. A big influence was simply having vegetables and fruits available in the home and limiting the availability of less healthy foods and beverages. Other positive influences included less frequent fast-food consumption, the parents’ own healthy eating attitudes, fewer perceived time barriers to healthy eating, and liking the taste of vegetables.

So that means it’s really important to expose kids to lots of different vegetables early in life so you can help develop their palates. Some vegetables may taste bitter at first, but keep offering them up. The taste preferences kids establish early in life tend to stick with them, so it’s vital to help them grow up loving vegetables.

For adults, a new study in the same August issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that simply serving several different vegetables at mealtime is a better strategy to boost vegetable intake than serving a large amount of a single type of vegetable. The 66 women and men in the study ate more vegetables when they were served a variety (broccoli, carrots, and snap peas), than when served any single type. The increase was more than one-half serving with the mix of veggies, and this increase remained
significant even when participants were able to choose their preferred vegetable.

It seems the different sensory properties of the vegetables leads to increased intake. The researchers recommend adding several different vegetables to the plate, along with other meal-based strategies, such as increasing the portion size of vegetables and adding chopped or pureed vegetables to mixed dishes.

What are some of your strategies to promote vegetables at home?

By Janet Helm, MS, RD