March 27, 2012
Raisins More Heart Healthy Than Chips And Cookies
New data published this week suggests those with slightly higher than average blood pressure can regulate their levels with a routine snack of raisins as opposed to other snacks and junk food.
Individuals who ate a handful of raisins three times a day were able to significantly lower their blood pressure, compared to having other snacks. This research is one of many being shown this week at the American College of Cardiology´s 61st Annual Scientific Session in Chicago.
Raisins have long been suspected and even reported to have a significant effect on heart health. This is the first controlled study to scientifically prove adding raisins to one´s diet can improve conditions of slightly higher-than-average blood pressure, also known as prehypertension.
In a press release announcing these new findings, Harold Bays, MD, medical director and president of Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center (L-MARC) said, “It is often stated as a known fact that raisins lower blood pressure. But we could not find much objective evidence in the medical literature to support such a claim.”
“However, our study suggests if you have a choice between eating raisins or other snacks like crackers and chocolate chip cookies, you may be better off snacking on raisins at least with respect to blood pressure.”
Dr. Bays and his team used a randomly selected control group of 46 patients, men and women, with prehypertension. These patients were randomly selected to be given either raisins or another pre-packaged snack not containing fruits or vegetables but had the same amount of calories per serving. Patients were given the snacks 3 times a day for 12 days.
After 12 days had passed, the team began to analyze the data. Compared to other, alternative snacks, raisins were shown to significantly lower systolic blood pressure at weeks 4, 8, and 12. The group chosen to eat raisins as their snack showed an improvement in diastolic blood pressure, with a significantly reduced measure at all visits. Those who were given prepackaged snacks did not show any sort of improvement at any visit.
These findings show significant improvements, but may not surprise many people.
“Overall, these findings support what many people intrinsically believe: that natural foods often have greater health benefits than processed foods,” Dr. Bays said.
It was not identified in the study why raisins lower blood pressure. As a natural food, however, raisins are full of important vitamins and nutrients, high in fiber and potassium, and contain tannins and antioxidants.
“Raisins are packed with potassium, which is known to lower blood pressure,” Dr. Bays said. “They are also a good source of antioxidant dietary fiber that may favorably alter the biochemistry of blood vessels, causing them to be less stiff, which in turn, may reduce blood pressure.”
In the press release, Dr. Bays is careful to point out the relatively small scope of this study. In order to fully confirm the blood pressure-reducing effects of raisins, larger trials in different sites need to be conducted. Dr. hays finds this kind of experimentation exciting, however. By applying these scientific research methods to natural foods and products, patients can then be given natural options or additions to their treatment regimens.