In a new study, researchers found adding pumpkin pulp or seeds to a healthy diet may help reduce blood pressure levels.
The research was conducted by a team from Tuskegee University.
For close to two decades, researchers have looked at the nutritional benefit of pumpkin oil and seeds.
Until now, no one had looked at the effect of pumpkin flesh on high blood pressure.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects nearly half of American adults. Often called “the silent killer,” it has no symptoms.
High blood pressure puts people at risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and more.
Using medications as prescribed and making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, can lower blood pressure.
Previous research has suggested a diet called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) combined with a low-salt diet might lower high blood pressure.
The DASH diet includes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy products; and fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.
It limits foods high in saturated fat, tropical oils, sugar-sweetened drinks, and sweets.
In the study, the team compared the effect of a control diet to one that contained pumpkin pulp or seeds on the rats’ blood pressure and heart muscle.
The rats were put on the diet at 6 weeks old and fed it for eight weeks. The team used the pulp and seeds from calabaza squash, which often is used in canned pumpkin.
The pulp and seeds were freeze-dried and then made into a powder that was added to the rat food.
The team found the rats on a diet in which 4% of the calories came from pumpkin seeds or pulp had blood pressure levels more than 20% lower than the rats on the control diet.
The researchers say the amount the rats ate would be equivalent to about 1 1/2 cups of boiled pumpkin or 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds.
Adding this amount of pumpkin to a person’s diet “is easily attainable”.
In addition, pumpkin is one of the vegetables recommended by the DASH diet.
It is rich in beta carotene and is a good source of potassium and other compounds thought to help lower blood pressure.
Future work needs to directly test whether eating pumpkin pulp or seeds daily would lower blood pressure in humans.
One author of the study is Dr. Soweto Thomas, a biomedical researcher at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
The study is presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.
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