Canadian researchers have found that lentils can lower blood pressure and reverse declines in blood vessel health. The study, conducted in rats, showed that adding lentils to the diet can effectively block the increase in blood pressure that occurs with age. The findings also indicate that eating lentils can reverse the changes that occur in blood vessels as a result of high blood pressure.
“These are amazing results, since they provide a non-pharmacological way of treating diseases associated with blood vessel dysfunction,” said Dr. Peter Zahradka, one of the study’s lead investigators.
University of Manitoba scientists Drs. Carla Taylor and Zahradka conducted their research at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine, which operates out of the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre. Drs. Taylor and Zahradka were selected to present their research at the American Heart Association conference, one of the most prestigious gatherings of cardiac specialists, held in Dallas, Texas in November.
The investigation is a continuation of two studies published earlier this year. One study was a clinical trial that indicated eating legumes, specifically a mixture of beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, can improve blood flow to the legs of persons with peripheral artery disease, a condition that is closely linked to coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. The second study showed that lentils were effective in blocking high blood pressure.
“The most notable finding of the latest study was the fact that lentils could alter the physical properties of blood vessels so that they resembled the vessels found in healthy animals,” said Dr. Zahradka. The studies were funded through grants from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Strategic program. Additional studies are proceeding in animals. Human studies will still be needed to confirm these findings.
“Lentils could be part of a simple, cost-effective dietary strategy to improve cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Julianne Curran, director of Nutrition, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs for Pulse Canada. Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of red and green lentils.