Writing in the Journal of Functional Foods, Finnish researchers report that consumption of the combined spread led to significant reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, as well decreases in systolic blood pressure (BP).
“The majority of individuals with cardiovascular risk factors have more than one risk factor. These risk factors potentiate each other, resulting in a total cardiovascular risk, which is greater than the sum of its components,” wrote the researchers, led by Anu Turpeinen.
“Thus, a combined reduction of both [blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels] would have a major impact on cardiovascular risk.”
If the study is supported by additional research, it could see the combination spread enhancing an already buoyant heart health market. According to a recent market research conducted by Frost & Sullivan, the market is dominated by four ingredients: phytosterols; omega-3s; beta-glucans and soy protein.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which cost €192 billion in health care costs across the 27-member state EU in 2007 according to the European Heart Network, can be sub-classified into categories such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
The Valio scientists, collaborating with researchers from Doctagon Oy, Medcare Oy, and the University of Helsinki, recruited 62 people with hypertension (systolic BP at least 140 mmHg and diastolic BP between 85 and 99 mmHg) and with elevated LDL cholesterol levels (between 3.5 and 5.5 mmol/l) to take part in the randomised, placebo-controlled double-blind trial.
Subjects were randomised to consume 20 grams per day of a spread containing 4.2 mg milk peptides (isoleucine-proline-proline (IPP), and valine-proline-proline (VPP)) and 2 grams of plant sterol esters (Cognis), or placebo for 10 weeks.
Among the 58 subjects who finished the trial, Turpeinen and his co-workers observed a significant decrease in systolic BP of 6 mmHg in the spread group, compared to placebo, while diastolic BP did not change in either group.
“The present study is the first one to show an antihypertensive effect when IPP and VPP are consumed in a low-fat spread,” wrote the researchers.
Furthermore, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol decreased by 0.33 and 0.27 mmol/l in the spread group, respectively, but did not change in the placebo group. On the other hand, no changes in HDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels were observed.
“A 3 to 5 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure is estimated to decrease the risk of stroke by 15 per cent and the risk of myocardial infarction by 10 per cent,” said the researchers. “Respectively, a 0.6 mmol/l (10 per cent) decrease in LDL cholesterol reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 20 to 50 per cent depending on age.”
“The results suggest that a spread containing bioactive milk peptides and plant sterols has a beneficial effect on two major cardiovascular risk factors, blood pressure and plasma lipids, in hypertensive, dyslipidemic subjects.
“Functional foods affecting two major risk factors can be valuable tools in managing cardiovascular risk,” they concluded.
Sterols in other matrices
A recent review by researchers from Unilever R&D and Wageningen University reported that there were no significant differences between sterols or stanols, or fat-based or non fat-based, and dairy or non-dairy food formats.
Eighty-four trials were reviewed and the science appeared to support the incorporation of phytosterols in various food formats. The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Source : Journal of Functional Foods Published online ahead of print, 11 April 2009, doi: “Antihypertensive and cholesterol-lowering effects of a spread containing bioactive peptides IPP and VPP and plant sterols”Authors: A.M. Turpeinen, M. Kumpu, M. Rönnback, L. Seppo, H. Kautiainen, T. Jauhiainen, H. Vapaatalo, R. Korpela