Celery studies yield blood pressure boon.
When the father of University of Chicago medical student Quang T. Le developed a mild case of hypertension five years ago, he reached for an old Oriental remedy: celery. After eating a quarter pound of the ribbed vegetable every day for a week -- but not altering his diet in any other way -- he noted that his blood pressure dropped back into the normal range.
Now Le and William J. Elliott, a clinical pharmacologist at the University of Chicago, have found a possible explanation for this crunchy cure. They discovered that celery contains a chemical called 3-n-butyl phthalide, which relaxes the smooth-muscle lining of blood vessels Blood vessels
Tubular channels for blood transport, of which there are three principal types: arteries, capillaries, and veins. Only the larger arteries and veins in the body bear distinct names. , making them wider and thereby lowering blood pressure.
In experiments with normal rats, a dose of the phthalide compound equivalent to four stalks of celery in humans lowered blood pressure by an average of 13 percent, the researchers report. The same dose also pared the rats' cholesterol levels by 7 percent.
Le and Elliott determined that the phthalide compound works by lowering the concentration of stress hormones, or catecholamines Catecholamines
Family of neurotransmitters containing dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, produced and secreted by cells of the adrenal medulla in the brain. , in the blood. These hormones cause blood vessels to constrict con·strict
To make smaller or narrower, especially by binding or squeezing. . In test-tube studies, the scientists found that the phthalide compound blocks the action of an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase Tyrosine hydroxylase or tyrosine 3-monooxygenase is the enzyme responsible for catalyzing the conversion of the amino acid L-tyrosine to dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA). , which the body used to produce catecholamines.
Elliott hopes that studies of 3-n-butyl phtalide will yield a more effective drug for hypertension. "Phthalide works through such a simple and direct mechanism to dilate dilate /di·late/ (di´lat) to stretch an opening or hollow structure beyond its normal dimensions.
To make or become wider or larger. vessels," he says. "Many of our current antihypertensive antihypertensive /an·ti·hy·per·ten·sive/ (-ten´siv) counteracting high blood pressure, or an agent that does this.
Reducing high blood pressure.
n. agents act through more roundabout mechanisms ... and can have troubling side effect, such as fainting, drowsiness drows·i·ness
A state of impaired awareness associated with a desire or inclination to sleep. Also called hypnesthesia.
drowsiness Medtalk Semiconsciousness; grogginess, sleepiness or impotence."
However, he cautions people with high blood pressure against treating themselves by eating large amounts of celery. "While it may have helped Mr. Le," Elliott says, "eating more celery is not the recommended way to lower blood pressure." He notes that contains sodium, which can raise blood pressure, as well as other chemicals that can be toxic at high doses.