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News - Flax seed proteins may help maintain healthy blood pressure

By Sophie Inglis

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, a disease which causes almost 50% of deaths in Europe and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn per year. 

However, new research from Canada suggests that proteins from flax seed may help reduce blood pressure and potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because flax seed proteins have been shown to inhibit an important enzyme called “angiotensin converting enzyme”. 

Angiotensin II is a vasoconstrictor. In other words, it causes blood vessels to constrict, leading to high blood pressure. However, its precursor, angiotensin I, appears to have no biological activity and exists solely as a precursor to angiotensin II. 

During the laboratory study, researchers took flax seed meal, extracted the proteins and hydrolysed them, using a variety of enzymes. They then tested the proteins to see whether they were able to inhibit the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II. 

According to the findings, published online in the Journal of Functional Foods, flax seed proteins have the ability to stop angiotensin I being converted to angiotensin II. They do this by blocking the “angiotensin converting enzyme”. 

So the implications of this study are that the inclusion of flax seeds in the diet could prevent vasoconstriction and, therefore, help maintain normal blood pressure. In fact, researchers, headed by Rotimi Aluko from the University of Manitoba wrote: “The results of this study clearly indicate that flax seed protein hydrolysates possess as a potential food source of anti-hypertensive agents.” 

So why not try adding ground flax seeds to your cereal, salads, yogurts and smoothies? 

Article References

De Spirt S et al. Br J Nutr (2009) 101(3):440-5

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