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Capsaicin & Hypertension

Studies have suggested a role for plant compounds in lowering cardiovascular risks including hypertension (high blood pressure). Zhiming Zhu, from the Third Military Medical University (China), and colleagues completed a study examining the effects of long-term treatment with capsaicin on high blood pressure in a laboratory animal model.  The team found that long-term dietary consumption of capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers that lends the vegetable’s spiciness, reduced blood pressure in genetically hypertensive rats. The effects were resultant from a chronic activation of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel found in the lining of blood vessels, whereby activation of the channel leads to an increase in production of nitric oxide, a gaseous molecule known to protect blood vessels against inflammation and dysfunction.  Writing that: “We conclude that TRPV1 activation by dietary capsaicin improves endothelial function.”  The researchers submit that: [This mechanism] “may represent a promising target for therapeutic intervention of hypertension.”

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