Author Archives: Bix

Hibiscus Tea Lowers Blood Pressure

Hibiscus tea. Credit: Organic facts

Below are two studies and a review addressing the antihypertensive effects of hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus Sabdariffa L. Tea (Tisane) Lowers Blood Pressure In Prehypertensive And Mildly Hypertensive Adults, Journal of Nutrition, February 2010

In this one, participants drank a cup of hibiscus tea three times a day. It lowered their systolic blood pressure (the first or top number of a blood pressure reading) by about 7 mm HG. If your BP was, say, 140/90 the tea might lower it to 133/90. (It didn’t significantly reduce the diastolic pressure.

In vitro studies show Hibiscus sabdariffa L., an ingredient found in many herbal tea blends and other beverages, has antioxidant properties, and, in animal models, extracts of its calyces have demonstrated hypocholesterolemic and antihypertensive properties. Our objective in this study was to examine the antihypertensive effects of H. sabdariffa tisane (hibiscus tea) consumption in humans. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in 65 pre- and mildly hypertensive adults, age 30-70 y, not taking blood pressure (BP)-lowering medications, with either 3 240-mL servings/d of brewed hibiscus tea or placebo beverage for 6 wk. A standardized method was used to measure BP at baseline and weekly intervals. At 6 wk, hibiscus tea lowered systolic BP (SBP) compared with placebo (-7.2 +/- 11.4 vs. -1.3 +/- 10.0 mm Hg; P = 0.030). Diastolic BP was also lower, although this change did not differ from placebo (-3.1 +/- 7.0 vs. -0.5 +/- 7.5 mm Hg; P = 0.160). The change in mean arterial pressure was of borderline significance compared with placebo (-4.5 +/- 7.7 vs. -0.8 +/- 7.4 mm Hg; P = 0.054). Participants with higher SBP at baseline showed a greater response to hibiscus treatment (r = -0.421 for SBP change; P = 0.010). No effects were observed with regard to age, gender, or dietary supplement use. These results suggest daily consumption of hibiscus tea, in an amount readily incorporated into the diet, lowers BP in pre- and mildly hypertensive adults and may prove an effective component of the dietary changes recommended for people with these conditions.

The Effect Of Sour Tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) On Essential Hypertension, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, June 1999

Here they measured an 11.2% systolic reduction, from, say, 160 to 142 mm HG. That’s quite a reduction. They also measured a diastolic reduction. I read the study and couldn’t figure out how much tea they were drinking. I’ll assume it was at least once a day.

Considering the high prevalence of hypertension, its debilitating end organ damage, and the side effects of chemical drugs used for its treatment, we conducted this experimental study to evaluate the effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on essential hypertension. For this purpose, 31 and 23 patients with moderate essential hypertension were randomly assigned to an experimental and control group, respectively. Patients with secondary hypertension or those consuming more than two drugs were excluded from the study. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were measured before and 15 days after the intervention. In the experimental group, 45% of the patients were male and 55% were female, and the mean age was 52.6±7.9 years. In the control group, 30% of the patients were male, 70% were female, and the mean age of the patients was 51.5±10.1 years. Statistical findings showed an 11.2% lowering of the systolic blood pressure and a 10.7% decrease of diastolic pressure in the experimental group 12 days after beginning the treatment, as compared with the first day. The difference between the systolic blood pressures of the two groups was significant, as was the difference of the diastolic pressures of the two groups. Three days after stopping the treatment, systolic blood pressure was elevated by 7.9%, and diastolic pressure was elevated by 5.6% in the experimental and control groups. This difference between the two groups was also significant. This study proves the public belief and the results of in vitro studies concerning the effects of sour tea on lowering high blood pressure. More extensive studies on this subject are needed.

Hibiscus sabdariffa L. – A Phytochemical And Pharmacological Review, Food Chemistry, December 2014

Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (Hs, roselle; Malvaceae) has been used traditionally as a food, in herbal drinks, in hot and cold beverages, as a flavouring agent in the food industry and as a herbal medicine. In vitro and in vivo studies as well as some clinical trials provide some evidence mostly for phytochemically poorly characterised Hs extracts. Extracts showed antibacterial, anti-oxidant, nephro- and hepato-protective, renal/diuretic effect, effects on lipid metabolism (anti-cholesterol), anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive effects among others. This might be linked to strong antioxidant activities, inhibition of α-glucosidase and α-amylase, inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE), and direct vaso-relaxant effect or calcium channel modulation. Phenolic acids (esp. protocatechuic acid), organic acid (hydroxycitric acid and hibiscus acid) and anthocyanins (delphinidin-3-sambubioside and cyanidin-3-sambubioside) are likely to contribute to the reported effects. More well designed controlled clinical trials are needed which use phytochemically characterised preparations. Hs has an excellent safety and tolerability record.

The tea has a diuretic effect and is also thought to act as an ACE inhibitor. But as the second study discussed, that may not be the only mechanism for blood pressure lowering. When participants stopped the tea, their blood pressure went back up.

I’m not posting this to promote hibiscus as a way to lower blood pressure; diet and exercise have a more profound and long-lasting effect. But I’m consistently moved by the ability of herbs to be medicinally therapeutic. We should study them more, understand their mechanisms of action and their risks, because (from the second study):

Therefore, considering the side effects of drugs, we suggest that all hypertensive patients (except those with progressive end organ damage with lifethreatening hypertension) undergo 4–6 months treatment with non-synthetic drugs, i.e. herbal medicines (such as sour tea), as the first stage in the ‘step by step’ treatment.

Can you imagine that here in the US?

Thank You

Thank you everyone for reading and commenting and teaching me things. There’s a part of all of you in these pages.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
― Fred Rogers

Frozen Berries are Expensive

It occurred to me to run the numbers on what it costs to eat berries every day. I’ll use blueberries as an example, since they are often on lists of superfoods. They are also cheaper than raspberries and blackberries.

12 ounces of store-brand frozen organic blueberries (the Environmental Working Group recommends buying organic for domestic blueberries) costs ~$4, 32 ounces costs ~$9. The bag says that a serving is one cup and that those 12 ounces is 2.5 servings or 4.8 ounces/serving. A family of 4, eating a serving a day, would eat 19.2 ounces/day or 134.4 ounces/week. If 32 ounces costs $9 then 134.4 ounces costs $37.80/week.

So, it would cost a family of 4, $37.80/week to eat a serving of blueberries a day.

As we saw from this post:

Americans earning a median income spend about $5,646/year, or $470/month, or $118/week on food. If there are 21 meals in a week, that’s about $5.62 per meal for the household.

A middle-income family would be spending about a third of their weekly food budget making sure everyone ate a serving of frozen berries a day. Put another way, $80.20 would be left for food for the week after buying berries, or $3.82 per meal for a family of 4, or 95 cents per person per meal … which is really low. Berries don’t have many calories so you’re left looking for calories for that 95 cents. It’s not going to be lettuce.

Also, where does a family keep 8 or 9 pounds of frozen fruit? Assuming they purchase it every week?

I think those who promote eating berries every day mean well but their message is directed towards an affluent audience, not middle America, certainly not those on the lower rungs of the wealth ladder.

The Lindy Hop

The human body can move like this, and, it appears, have fun doing it.

Probably the greatest Lindy hop sequence ever filmed. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers from the 1941 film Helzapoppin.

I can’t get over how fast they’re moving, and with such accuracy.

Lindy Hop

The Lindy hop is an American dance which was born in Harlem, New York City in 1928 and has evolved since then with the jazz music of that time. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway, and Charleston. It is frequently described as a jazz dance and is a member of the swing dance family.

Chemicals In The Environment Cause Weight Gain

Endocrine Disruptors And Obesity, Nature Reviews, Endocrinology, September 2015

A substantial body of evidence suggests that a subclass of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which interfere with endocrine signalling, can disrupt hormonally regulated metabolic processes, especially if exposure occurs during early development. These chemicals, so-called ‘obesogens’ might predispose some individuals to gain weight despite their efforts to limit caloric intake and increase levels of physical activity.

Although the obesogen hypothesis is less than 10 years old, the obesogenic properties of ~20 environmental chemicals are already known. Given the difficulty in treating obesity, the obesogen hypothesis opens the door to reducing the incidence of this global health problem by focusing on its prevention through reducing early-life chemical exposures.

These chemicals, endocrine disruptors, also predispose individuals to diabetes … by way of weight gain and through more direct mechanisms. We can prevent these outcomes by limiting our exposure. Will we?

What Is A Low-Fat Diet?

Grains, beans, and potatoes form the foundation of a healthy, low-fat, starch-based diet.

The USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines say that between 20-35% of a day’s calories should come from fat. They call that moderate fat, not low fat.

Here are some groups that ate “low-fat”:

Kempner Rice Diet patients: 2-3% fat
Okinawans before 1960s: 6%
Cubans during Special Period: 10%
Barnard’s 2006 study (High-Carb, Low-Fat For Diabetes) : 19% (their goal was 10%)
The Famed PREDIMED Mediterranean Diet, low-fat arm: 37%

So, low-fat has been described as anywhere from 2 to 37%. (That 37% is crazy high, I don’t know how they get away with it.)

In my mind, a realistic low-fat diet contains something less than 20% fat but higher than what the Cubans and Okinawans ate, more in the range of 10-15%. What does that mean in terms of food?

If you ate 2000 calories a day:

37% fat would be 740 calories or 82 grams of fat.
35% fat would be 700 calories or 78 grams of fat.
20% fat would be 400 calories or 44 grams of fat.
15% fat would be 300 calories or 33 grams of fat.
10% fat would be 200 calories or 22 grams of fat.
6% fat would be 120 calories or 13 grams of fat.
3% fat would be 60 calories or 7 grams of fat.

So, a low-fat diet has about 22-33 grams of fat, depending on how many calories you eat.

Here are some low-fat foods:

  • A 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal has about 2.6 grams of fat.
  • A 1/2 cup of chickpeas has about 2 grams of fat.
  • A cup of cooked brown rice has about 2 grams of fat.
  • Two slices of whole wheat bread has about 4 grams of fat.
  • A cup of cooked spaghetti has about 1 gram of fat.
  • A cup of almond milk has about 3 grams of fat.
  • A 1/2 cup of corn has about 0.5 grams of fat.
  • A 1/2 cup of peas has about 0.5 grams of fat.
  • A medium red-skinned potato has about 0.3 grams of fat.
  • A medium banana has about 0.4 grams of fat.

Some fattier foods:

  • A 1/4 cup of pureed avocado has about 9 grams of fat.
  • Two tablespoons pumpkin seeds have about 7 grams of fat.
  • Two tablespoons peanut butter have about 16 grams of fat.
  • Two tablespoons olive oil have about 28 grams of fat.

Even an oil-free, vegan diet contains fat, sometimes quite a lot.

Sugar Does Not Make People Fat, Case-In-Point: Kempner’s Rice And Sugar Diet

I want to revisit this post about Kempner’s Rice Diet that I posted back in 2014. First, no one is saying or even suggesting that a person should eat only rice, fruit, and sugar. Kempner designed this diet for people with advanced kidney disease. It wasn’t even intended to be a weight loss diet. Second, as you can see from the photographs, eating sugar, and lots of it, in some cases up to 2000 calories a day in pure white sugar, did not make people gain weight. In fact, people lost weight. What makes people gain weight? When they eat fat along with sugar.

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What would happen if you fed people only white rice, fruit, juice, and sugar? At up to 2400 calories a day? Would they gain weight, lose weight, or stay the same?

This is what happened when, in the 1940’s, doctor Walter Kempner began feeding his patients a rice diet:

KempnerRiceDiet2

His initial intention was to feed patients who had advanced renal disease with a diet that would lessen the amount of filtering the kidneys had to do. The diet would reduce nitrogen (from dietary protein), sodium (from salt), etc. White rice fit the bill since it was low in protein and fat while providing all the essential amino acids, and it was widely available. The diet was a success.1

The refugee with the strong German accent explained his ideas about renal failure to his skeptical medical students. “The problem with renal failure is the resultant metabolic dysfunction. The kidneys excrete waste products, amino acids, keto-acid metabolites, hydrogen ions, the salt that is eaten, and all these things are the result of what the people are eating. Theoretically, we should be able to make them better by reducing the amount of work the kidneys have to do. Namely, we could radically alter the patients’ diets and thereby save lives.” The (Duke University) students challenged the Herr Professor. “Sounds cool but prove it!” And so he did. The ideas behind this gallant hypothesis were not that novel. Others had prescribed various similar ideas about reducing renal work by modifying the diet, particularly in terms of sodium content. However, they had not been that successful in sending the kidneys on vacation. Kempner introduced the first comprehensive (global) dietary program to treat chronic renal disease. By doing so, he revolutionized not only that disease but also the treatment of hypertension, obesity, and a host of other disorders.

It was by accident that he discovered the diet could do a lot more than treat kidney disease: 2

A major breakthrough occurred by accident in 1942 when one of Dr. Kempner’s patients, a 33-year-old North Carolina woman with chronic glomerulonephritis (kidney disease) and papilledema (eye disease) failed to follow his instructions. Because of Dr. Kempner’s heavy German accent she misunderstood his instructions to return in two weeks, and after two months, she finally returned, with no signs of deficiency, but rather with robust health. The woman had experienced a dramatic reduction of her blood pressure, from 190/120 to 124/84 mmHg, resolution of eye damage (retinal hemorrhages and papilledema), and a noticeable decrease in heart size.

Rice, fruit, and sugar really was all they were eating. This was not just a diet to which lots of rice was added. It was a diet very low in protein, fat, and sodium: 2

KempnerRiceDiet4

  • Dry rice of 250 to 350 grams daily forms the basis of the diet. Any kind of rice is used as long as it contains no milk or salt. The rice is boiled or steamed in plain water or fruit juice, without salt, milk or fat. (One cup of dry white rice weighs about 200 grams, and contains about 13 grams of protein, 150 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fat, and 700 calories.)
  • Fruit and fruit juices are allowed.
  • Dried fruits can be used as long as nothing but sugar has been added.
  • White sugar may be used as desired (ad libitum); on average a patient takes in about 100 grams daily (400 calories) but, if necessary (to maintain body weight), as much as 500 grams (2000 calories) daily has been used.
  • The nutrient breakdown is about 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day (depending on the patient’s body weight): 95% carbohydrate, 4 to 5% protein (20 to 25 grams), 2 to 3% fat (rice is relatively high in the essential fat linoleic acid), 140 milligrams of calcium, and 150 milligrams of sodium daily.

These photos of a retina that show reversal of diabetic retinopathy (bleeding/hemorrhages and leaking/exudates from blood vessels) are nothing short of remarkable:3

KempnerRiceDiet3

And this: 2

His numbers also showed how a high-carbohydrate diet improved blood sugars and often cured type-2 diabetes.

A diet of essentially all refined carbohydrate – white rice and white sugar – often cured type 2 diabetes. Why is this knowledge being lost on us? How did it come to pass that high-fat, meat-based diets reign? Because there’s little money to be made in telling people to eat rice? 3

In the 1950s, diuretics were introduced for the management of high blood pressure. And still later the direct application of Kempner’s dietary regimen diminished as a large array of blood pressure medications — Beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin antagonists, and calcium channel blockers — became available for the management of hypertension. Kempner could take solace in knowing, nevertheless, that his regimen could provide comparable, if not better, results.

Many of today’s high-carb, plant-based diets are incarnations of Kempner’s rice diet from the 1940s.

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1 Who And What Drove Walter Kempner? The Rice Diet Revisited, Hypertension, October 2014
2 Walter Kempner, MD – Founder Of The Rice Diet, McDougall Newsletter, December 2013
3 Fifty-year Anniversary: Reversal of Diabetic Retinopathy With Rice Diet, Retinal Physician, 2008

Dietary Treatment Of Hypertension. Clinical And Metabolic Studies of Patients On The Rice-Fruit Diet, Journal of Clinical Investigation, September 1950
Treatment of Massive Obesity With Rice/Reduction Diet Program, An Analysis of 106 Patients With at Least a 45-kg Weight Loss, JAMA Internal Medicine, December 1975