Insulin’s Effect on Blood Pressure

lower blood pressureFebruary 19th, 2010 – In a previous article, I talked about how high carbohydrate diets can increase triglycerides (blood fats), or high cholesterol. It also appears that high carbohydrate consumption can increase hypertension, or high blood pressure.  Check this out.

It’s not actually the carbohydrates doing the damage; rather it’s their corresponding hormone – insulin.  The more carbs we eat, the more insulin our bodies pump into the blood stream to shuttle the glucose into cells for storage.  When we are in a hyperinsulinemic (high insulin) state, like the one you’re in when you eat a high carbohydrate diet, the kidneys will retain more sodium than normal. (1)  This is the body’s protective mechanism to maintain proper electrolyte balance, by retaining water to keep the sodium sufficiently diluted.  More water leads to increased blood volume, and thus more pressure on the walls of the blood vessels.

Insulin also stimulates the smooth muscle cells of the arterial walls, acting like a growth hormone and causing them to enlarge and thicken. (2) As they grow, the interior space of the blood vessels decreases, which further increases blood pressure.  Combine narrowed vessels with increased blood volume and you have a perfect recipe for a heart attack.

References –

1. Insulin and renal sodium retention in obese adolescents.

Rocchini AP, Katch V, Kveselis D, Moorehead C, Martin M, Lampman R, Gregory M.

Hypertension. 1989 Oct;14(4):367-74  PMID: 2676858

2. Protein Power

Dr. Michael Eades

New York, NY: Creative Paradox LLC (2000)

Lectins in Peanuts Clog Arteries

Lectins in peanuts clog arteriesNovember 25th, 2009 –A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread looks pretty wholesome and harmless, doesnít it? Well, looks can be deceiving. This delicious meal is packed with a deadly lectin that clogs your arteries.

The trouble seems to stem from a lectin specific to peanuts called Peanut Agglutinin(PNA). Lectins are sugar-binding proteins found all throughout nature, and are thought to play an important role in plant defense against being eaten. (1) PNA is particularly resistant to breakdown in the gut, and has been shown to penetrate the intestinal walls mostly intact and bind to the smooth muscle cells in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque within the arteries) and fibromuscular lesions. (2) Aside from being a know allergen, PNA has also been shown to stimulate cellular proliferation of colon cancer cells (3).

Even if you donít have any peanut allergies, eating peanuts may still increase your heart disease and colon cancer risk. Peanuts have side-effects, so you are probably safer choosing almond butter for that next ìnut butterî sandwich.

References –

1. Agrarian Diet and Diseases of Affluence – Do Evolutionary Novel Dietary Lectins Cause Leptin Resistance?
Tommy J?nsson, et al.
BMC Endocrine Disorders 2005, 5:10doi:10.1186/1472-6823-5-10

2. Atherogenic Potential of Peanut Oil-Based Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Diets
Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Lipids 1998 Vol. 33 no. 2 Page 229

3. Peanut lectin stimulates proliferation of colon cancer cells by interaction with glycosylated CD44v6 isoforms and consequential activation of c-Met and MAPK
Singh R et al.
Glycobiology.2006 Jul;16(7):594-601.

Hawthorn Berry in Treating High Blood Pressure

Hawthorn berryOctober 14th, 2009 – Hawthorn berry (Crateagus oxycanthus) is used as an herbal supplement to help improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system, and has shown a unique function in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive subjects.

A collaboration of several different studies involving 855 patients using hawthorn extract, in addition to conventional treatments for chronic heart failure, show increased exercise ability, lower oxygen consumption by the heart, and less fatigue. (1) In another trial, 92 men and women, all with mild hypertension, were given hawthorn extract or a placebo three times a day for three months. The individuals receiving the extract had a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure at the end of the three months when compared to the placebo group. (2)

The active compounds found in hawthorn responsible for this drop in blood pressure are procyanidins and flavonoids (specifically hyperoside). (3) Procyanidins found in hawthorn help increase nitric oxide (NO) release to stimulate NO mediated vaso-relaxation in the endothelial walls of blood vessels. (2) The NO molecules diffuse into vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), leading to a series of chemical reactions that eventually increase the vasodilation of such cells. (2) Hyperoside is the flavonoid in hawthorn that contributes to the functionality of procyanidins by destroying the free radicals that would otherwise disrupt the activity of NO. (1) Contrary to what might be expected from a supplement used to treat hypertension, hawthorn has actually been observed to have beneficial effects for people with hypotension. (5) One study found that an herbal drug, of which its main component was liquid hawthorn berry extract, actually increased the systolic blood pressure of orthostatic hypotensive patients twice as much as that of the control group. (6)

-Dylan Udy


1. Center for the Advancement of Health.
“Herbal Remedy, Hawthorn Extract, Can Help The Heart, Review Finds.”
ScienceDaily 23 January 2008. 11 July 2009

2. Anti-hypertensive Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods
Chen, Zhen-Yu et al.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009 57 (11), 4485-4499

3. Plants and hypotensive, antiatheromatous and coronarodilatating action
Petkov V.
Am J Chin Med 1979; 7(3): 197

4. Crataegus Special Extract WS 1442 Induces an Endothelium-Dependent, NO-mediated Vasorelaxation via eNOS-Phosphorylation at Serine 1177
Brixius, Klara et al.
Cardiovascular Drugs Therapy (2006) 20: 177-184

5. Ayurvedic & Herbal Health Medicine. ìHawthorn Berry from Bioforce.î
11 July 2009

6. Efficacy and safety of a herbal drug containing hawthorn berries and D-camphor in hypotension and orthostatic circulatory disorders/results of a retrospective epidemiologic cohort study.
Hempel B., et al.
Arzneimittelforschung, 55(8), 443-50. (2005)

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