Can vegetable juices lower your blood pressure and help you lose weight?

October 26,  Davis, CA – Can drinking vegetable juice lower your blood pressure and help you lose weight? If so, how much? Researchers at the University of California-Davis conducted a 12-week study among adults ages 40-65 years.

All of the people in the study who drank at least two cups of vegetable juice met daily vegetable recommendations. But only seven percent of the non-juice drinkers met the goal. The participants in the study with borderline high blood pressure who drank one to two servings of V8 juice lowered their blood pressure significantly.

Presently, UC Davis is doing a study on how strawberries can lower blood pressure. UC Davis needs pre-hypertensive (systolic 120-139 mmHg and/or diastolic 80-89 mmHg) men and women ages 25 – 65 years who:

* Are not taking blood pressure medication or receiving treatment
* Do not have an allergy or intolerance for dairy or strawberry products
* Must not be taking any other medications or supplements
* Females must not be taking birth control.

Participation in this study requires:

* Consumption of a strawberry drink for ten weeks
* Five clinic visits (not including screening) consisting of blood pressure monitoring, blood draws, an electrocardiogram (ECG), and brachial artery flow mediated vasodilation test (a test to examine the ability of your blood vessels to relax, only 2 throughout the study duration)
* Subjects will also be asked to wear a 24-hour blood pressure monitor five times during the study (including screening).

Participants in the study will receive:

* Compensation
* Lab results

For more information, check out the UC Davis Strawberry Study site. The UC Davis Nutrition Department’s phone number is listed at the site. Let’s take a look at a study done on specific health benefits of vegetable juices.The University of Calfornia – Davis and Baylor College of Medicine teamed up to study the effects of fresh vegetable juices on weight loss and lowering blood pressure.

UC Davis nutrition scientists also are running a 15-week study to test whether diets that contain potatoes will be useful in weight loss or maintaining current body weight and how these diets affect your blood sugar. If you’re interested, check out the Potato study site.

In the vegetable juices study, the University of California-Davis  involved 90 healthy adults, ages 40-65 years. The Baylor study enrolled 81 adults (83.5% of whom were minority) with metabolic syndrome risk factors. The studies were supported in part by Campbell Soup Company and by resources provided from University of California-Davis and Baylor College of Medicine.

The problem with this study is that those that drank at least two cups of vegetable juice were drinking juice from a can or bottle. Have you read the label on canned or bottled juice? Is it mostly tomato paste coming from another can along with squeezed vegetable juice and water? Or is it freshly juiced vegetables coming out of your juicing machine? What vegetables were juiced? How long had the vegetable juice been in the can.

If we narrow the study down to drinking cans of V8, let’s discuss the ingredients on the bottle or can. Was it a plastic bottle or glass or a metal can? All these factors could change what the juice tastes like. Was it low sodium juice or juice that has been salted with table salt. Was the table salt labeled as sea salt? Or is your salt some of the commercial kind processed perhaps with aluminum.

How do you know whether your salt has been processed with aluminum or is naturally derived from the ocean? Or would you rather have more potassium than salt in your vegetable juices, low sodium bottled juices, or make your own? Consumers have to consider all these factors if they have health issues.

Consumers don’t know any of these variables. All readers know is that the participants drank vegetable juice. The juice was V8, and the studies were financially supported in part by Campell Soup Company that makes canned soup and canned vegetable juice.

If results were this great with canned juice, think of what juicing your own fresh vegetables will do. The only problem with fresh vegetables you have at home is you don’t know if they’ve been washed thoroughly or still have dirt caked in crevices when you’re dealing with people juicing vegetables at home.

So many factors could be taken into consideration. Were the vegetables scrubbed or peeled, for example. Did you use a blender to get the fiber or a juicer to take out the fiber? Was it the fiber in the vegetables, the pulp or the watery juice of your own vegetables that had any effect on your weight or blood pressure? Think about it.

In the meantime, the results of the study were great. Every naturopath knows that studies for the last fifty years have documented the link between eating a diet rich in vegetables and lower blood pressure. The question is do you salt your vegetable juice? If so, what if you have a genetic variation in some of your kidney genes that causes salt sensitivity–where your blood pressure rises when you drink a lot of salty juices?

On the other hand, you need to eat more vegetables and vegetable juice for a variety of health benefits from the antioxidants in vegetable juice. Currently statistics say almost eight out of 10 people worldwide fall short of the daily recommendation, according to the article, "Vegetable Juice Aided in Dietary Support for Weight Loss and Lower Blood Pressure," published October 21 in Medical News Today. Research presented at the International Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruits and Vegetables suggests the best approach may be to focus on the factors that are often behind this vegetable gap: convenience and enjoyment.

According to the World Health Organication (WHO) and (FAO) fruit and vegetable promotion initiative, "Low fruit and vegetable intake was identified as an important risk factor for chronic diseases in the WHO World Health Report 2002. Overall, it is estimated that up to 2.7 million lives could potentially be saved each year if fruit and vegetable consumption was sufficiently increased." Currently, studies around the world continue.

For example, two studies presented at the symposium on human health effects of fruits and vegetables found that the addition of vegetable juice in people’s diets was a successful strategy to help them reach the vegetable guidelines (at least 4 servings per day).

The goal is to get people to carry vegetable juice with them to work or school when they are not at home. Studies found that "the addition of a portable drink, such as V8® 100% vegetable juice, was more successful than an approach that focused solely on nutrition education, or offering dietary counseling on ways to increase vegetable intake," according to the article, "Vegetable Juice Aided in Dietary Support for Weight Loss and Lower Blood Pressure." 

Vegetable juice has to taste good and be pleasurable if you’re going to get people to drink two cups a day of vegetable juice. Unlike fruit juice, loaded with sugar with the fiber taken out, you’re not going to get those huge sugar spikes from certain vegetable juices that are not high in sugar, especially if some pulp/fiber is left in the juice. With fruit, it’s better to eat the fruit whole.

What gets people drinking vegetable juice is the taste, the joy of the experience. You don’t want to give people bitter juice to drink. So the vegetables have to be selected for taste, health, and blended.

Some people have a gene that creates a bitter taste at the back of the tongue on certain vegetables. Others don’t taste vegetables as bitter. You can see this reaction in some children. The idea is to get kids into the habit of enjoying vegetable juice as a beverage.

They’ll grow up with the habit of drinking vegetable juices and making their own. It’s all about enjoying vegetable juices the same as you’d enjoy fruit. Habits stay with you for a lifetime when it comes to attitudes toward new ways to prepare vegetable juices and vegetables.

Drinking vegetable juice has to be a simple habit that’s enjoyable. For example, you can put a handfull of spinach and celery in your blender and juice it with fruit that sweetens the juice, some almonds, and even a spoon of carob powder to get children into the habit of drinking vegetable juices mixed with whole fruit or alone.

Try juicing a carrot, apple, some parsley, a hand ful of raw red cabbage, and celery. Then add some raw beets. Blend everything and thin out with carrot juice. If you mix red juice with green juice it turns brown. Add some carob powder, and it looks and tastes more like a chocolate smoothie.

Then put the juice in a portable container so family members can take their two cups of juice with them daily. Vegetable juice is healthier than gulping fruit juice which is full of sugar and causes a sudden insulin response. If you have metabolic syndrome, you don’t want the high blood sugar spikes followed by insulin resistance or the shakes from low blood sugar that follows.

Instead, you want the slow absorption of glucose into your bloodstream from vegetable juices low in sugar. Tomatoes, for example are higher in sugar than green juices such as celery, spinach, parsley, and cucumber or zucchini. Use common sense when choosing low-sugar veggies to juice. Some doctors tell their metabolic syndrome patients to eat only a quarter of a whole tomato. So it depends on what your doctor advises. In general, vegetable juices are healthy. Just choose the veggies that don’t have a high sugar content if you’re drinking lots of vegetable juice.

First test yourself to see whether or not you can drink juice on an empty stomach. Some people can’t. They have to eat food such as protein, grains, or bread and then drink the juice last following a meal. How does your stomach feel when you drink lots of vegetable juice? Careful with beet juice. It should be mixed with other vegetable juices to go easy on the stomach.

Research conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine revealed that drinking vegetable juice helped overweight individuals with metabolic syndrome lose more weight compared to non-juice drinkers. In the study, participants who drank one to two servings of Low Sodium V8® 100% vegetable juice a day as part of a balanced diet increased their vegetable intake and lost an average of four pounds over the 12-week study period. Those who did not drink juice lost only one pound, according to the article, "Vegetable Juice Aided in Dietary Support for Weight Loss and Lower Blood Pressure."

If the study has been done on people with borderline hypertension and/or metabolic syndrome, what will vegetable juices do for those with high blood pressure that are older adults who cannot or will not take commercial drugs? What about those with high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome who are not obese, but genetically programmed for hypertension and older? Can vegetable juice help them also? What about walking plus juice feasting (not fasting)? Or caloric restriction in those with abdominal obesity?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes that includes excess body fat in the midsection, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and elevated blood cholesterol. With the global epidemic of obesity and heart disease, and widespread metabolic syndrome, where weight gain is in the abdomen rather than in the thighs and hips, you want to start with small steps to reduce risk factors.

Vegetable juice helps you make a start to getting enough vegetables, your five to thirteen servings of vegetables daily. The studies at UC Davis and Baylor were randomized, controlled trials. And each study lasted for twelve weeks. Another study at UC Davis back in 2001 was, "A comparison of two telephone methods for obtaining fruit and vegetable consumption among 12 to 17-year-olds in California." It’s important for people of all ages to get enough vegetables.

The easiest way to begin a habit of getting enough servings of vegetables is to take the juice with you in a container when you’re on the move traveling, working, or at school lunch breaks. Drinking two cups a day of vegetable juice is important. You can drink one cup in the morning and one at lunch time. That amounts to sixteen ounces a day of vegetable juice. Unrelated to the study is a helpful article to view, "Red Grape Skin Extract Could Be New Treatment For Sickle Cell Disease Patients."

The Ragle Human Nutrition Center is a part of the UC Davis Department of Nutrition and its mission is to facilitate the ability of investigators to conduct clinical trials with human subjects to investigate relationships of food components and essential nutrients to health and wellness promotion. For further information, check out the following sites for these resources on current nutrition-related clinical trials at UC Davis:

Strawberries and Blood Pressure

Dose Response Sugar

Potato

Postmenopausal Women needed for a Research Study

Lipids
 

Photo credits: Flickr.com – vegetable juices.