London: Drinking two glasses of orange juice daily can help lower your blood pressure and cut the risk of heart disease, a new study has claimed.
Researchers at the University of Auvergne in France found that middle-aged men who regularly drank half-a-litre of juice, equivalent to about two glasses, for a month saw a
significant decline in their blood pressure readings.
Previous studies have suggested that orange juice may be good for the heart, but scientists have been uncertain exactly what gives it its protective powers.
Now, the French study found the presence of a natural plant chemical called hesperidin -- part of a class of disease-fighting compounds found in plant foods like tea, fruit, soya and cocoa -- that increases the fruit`s protective powers, the Daily Mail reported.
High blood pressure, which puts our arteries under greater pressure when the heart beats, affects one in five people and is one of the major risk factors contributing to a cardiac arrest. The World Health Organisation estimates that 50 per cent of all heart attacks and strokes are due to raised blood pressure.
The ideal limit for blood pressure in a systolic reading -- the pressure inside the arteries when blood is forced through them -- should be 140mmHg, while the diastolic reading -- when the heart relaxes -- should be 90mmHg in a healthy heart.
To test their theory that it is hesperidin that gives orange juice its cardiovascular benefits, the French team recruited 24 overweight but otherwise healthy middle-aged men.
Each one spent four weeks drinking half-a-litre of orange juice every day, followed by four weeks where they drank sweetened water and took a capsule containing hesperidin.
In the final four weeks of the study, they drank the same water and took a dummy capsule that had no hesperidin in it.
The results showed that at the end of the orange juice experiment and the one where they took a hesperidin capsule, there was a significant decline in their diastolic blood pressure. Average readings were between 3.2 and 5.5mmHg lower than after they took the dummy capsule with water.
Reporting their findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers said: "The main result was that four weeks of consuming orange juice, or purified hesperidin, significantly decreased diastolic blood pressure in healthy men.
"A three to four point reduction in diastolic blood pressure would reduce the incidence of coronary artery disease by 20 per cent. Hesperidin could be responsible for the observed effects."
However, patients taking blood pressure pills are advised to seek medical advice.