Eating Black Sesame May Slash Heart Disease Risk

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Blood pressure is a major focus of cardiovascular disease prevention, but the blood pressure lowering drugs may actually increase mortality. We need food-based drug alternatives now more than ever, and black sesame may be the perfect candidate. 

There is no denying heart disease is a huge concern in the modern world. It is indisputable that your chance of dying from cardiovascular disease is greater than any other cause. But modern medicine fixates on suppressing proxy markers of risk, such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels, with drugs, instead of identifying and resolving the actual underlying causes of this global health epidemic.

In the case of high blood pressure (hypertension), the drugs themselves (e.g. beta blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers) may actually raise the risk of mortality. This was famously demonstrated in a 2010 study published in JAMA. Diabetics treated with blood pressure lowering drugs and who maintained tight blood pressure control (systolic BP at less than 130 mm Hg) had increased mortality compared to those on the less restrictive blood pressure control (systolic at less than 140 MM Hg).

Clearly, this outcome does not bode well for those who are aggressively pressured into taking blood pressure medications as a "preventive measure." Indeed, hypertension is largely a symptom of pathological changes like endothelial dysfunction within the blood vessels. Treating the symptom -- elevated BP numbers -- like it is the disease itself is wrong minded, and rarely does anything to change the underlying problem; indeed, it may worsen the problem.

Today, it is common for relatively symptomless populations to be screened for hypertension, leading to millions of diagnoses and subsequent prescriptions. But things may be getting worse. Back in 2003, the questionable entity known as prehypertension was introduced (a "condition" of having blood pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, considered an indication of risk for hypertension). That year, The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC-7) revised its classifications of high blood pressure (BP) to include "prehypertension."1 Yet, this category was formerly covered by both the "normal" and "borderline" groups, and since then, it has been suggested that some forms of prehypertension be treated with medication.This reminds us of the WHO's decision to reify "osteopenia" or "pre-osteoperosis" as a disease entity, resulting in the manufacture of tens of thousands of highly misleading diagnoses, despite the fact that it is not an evidence-based categorization. 

Food Is Medicine When Treating Blood Pressure Disorders

Given the danger of being overdiagnosed and overtreated with blood pressure medications that may be cardiotoxic, not to mention carcinogenic, why not use food-based solutions that improve blood pressure that are not only time-tested, safe, affordable, easily accessible, but also delicious?

At we have indexed a remarkably broad range of natural substances -- 153 presently indexed on our Hypertension database -- that can prevent and/or reduce elevated blood pressure. Some of these are as familiar as oats, garlic, whey, watermelon, coenzyme Q10, cocoa, and the amino acid arginine. You'll also find there 20 Therapeutic actions such exercise, yoga, aromatherapy that help with hypertension. Of course, our database also focuses on avoidable causes, such as over 30 problem substances that can worsen hypertension like fructose and NSAID pain-killers. Did you know, for instance, that sugar -- not salt -- is a bigger threat to blood pressure?

The good news is that this is only the tip of the research iceberg. Over the course of the past five years alone, an ever-increasing body of research has accumulated showing that relatively simply dietary modifications can prevent health problems like prehypertension from worsening to the point where pharmaceutical intervention will be recommended, or deemed necessary.  

Only Half A Teaspoon of Black Sesame A Day for A Month Reverses "Pre-Hypertension" 

For instance, a study published in 2011 in Nutrition Journal titled, "Antihypertensive and antioxidant effects of dietary black sesame meal in pre-hypertensive humans," found that in those diagnosed prehypertension, simply giving them 2.52 grams of black sesame meal (that's less than half a teaspoon)  in capsules each day for 4 weeks resulted in significant reductions of systolic blood pressure compared to the placebo group. The study method was described as follows:

Twenty-two women and eight men (aged 49.8 ± 6.6 years) with prehypertension were randomly divided into two groups, 15 subjects per group. They ingested 2.52 g black sesame meal capsules or placebo capsules each day for 4 weeks. Blood samples were obtained after overnight fasting for measurement of plasma lipid, malondialdehyde (MDA) and vitamin E levels. Anthropometry, body composition and BP were measured before and after 4-week administration of black sesame meal or a placebo."

For those wondering, malondialedhyde (MDA) levels are are indicator of the amount of oxidative stress occurring in the body. The results were remarkable, showing that participants went from an average systolic blood pressure of 129.3, which is less than a point shy of the official definition of hypertensive (130-140), down to an average of 121.0, which is only a little over a point into the technical definition of prehypertension (120-129). The more detailed results were reported as follows:

The results showed that 4-week administration of black sesame meal significantly decreased systolic BP (129.3 ± 6.8 vs. 121.0 ± 9.0 mmHg, P < 0.05) and MDA level (1.8 ± 0.6 vs. 1.2 ± 0.6 μmol/L, P < 0.05), and increased vitamin E level (29.4 ± 6.0 vs. 38.2 ± 7.8 μmol/L, P < 0.01). In the black sesame meal group, the change in SBP tended to be positively related to the change in MDA (R = 0.50, P = 0.05), while the change in DBP was negatively related to the change in vitamin E (R = -0.55, P < 0.05). There were no correlations between changes in BP and oxidative stress in the control group."

As you can see, in the black sesame intervention group a relationship was identified between the systolic blood pressure and the improvement oxidative stress status in the body (measured by the reduced MDA level). Presumably, the black sesame's antioxidant properties are positively modulating the structure/function of the blood vessels and the hemodynamics of the blood itself, which helped to reduce the blood pressure.

The researchers of the study concluded:

These results suggest the possible antihypertensive effects of black sesame meal on improving antioxidant status and decreasing oxidant stress. These data may imply a beneficial effect of black sesame meal on prevention of CVD."

You can actually read more about the study and implications in a report done by our naturopath contributor Case Adams here: Black Sesame Seed Reduces High Blood Pressure Also, consider that black sesame likely possesses many if not all of the same health benefits identified within regular sesame, which include about 90 health benefits, and which you can look at here on our sesame seed database. The difference, of course, is that black sesame seed is pigmented. This melanin-like substance known as allomelanin has potent antioxidant and healing properties which may also explain why black seed (nigella sativa) has been found to have such profound healing properties, and known in ancient times within the Islamic tradition as the "remedy for everything but death."

Kitchen Cupboard Life-Savers You Should Know About

It is amazing to think that such a simple intervention with food can have such a powerful effect on reducing one of the primary risk factors linked to premature death in the developed world. This is not the only example! Take a glance below at some of the other foods we have reported on that have been validated clinically to significantly impact the risk of dying from some of today's most common causes: 

Looking for more? Check out our Healing Foods research feed.

Let's face it. Modern Western medicine's founding father Hippocrates was right all along: "Let Food Be Thy Medicine"!


1The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure: the JNC 7 report. Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, Cushman WC, Green LA, Izzo JL Jr, Jones DW, Materson BJ, Oparil S, Wright JT Jr, Roccella EJ, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, National High Blood Pressure Education Program Coordinating Committee JAMA. 2003 May 21; 289(19):2560-72. [PubMed]  

2  2010 Dec;28(6):339-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5922.2010.00167.x. Prehypertension: the rationale for early drug therapy. Fuchs FD1.

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