Good news for gazpacho lovers: regular consumption of this chilled tomato soup can reduce hypertension by up to 27 percent, a new study suggests.
The findings, published in the they journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, reveal that regular enjoyment of the Spanish soup is just as beneficial for reducing blood pressure as eating the soup's nutritious ingredients by itself.
"Previous clinical and epidemiological studies associate the consumption of gazpacho's main ingredients (tomato, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, etc.) with an arterial pressure reduction," researchers Alexander Medina-Remón said in a statement.
"This new scientific study states for the first time that a regular consumption of gazpacho is as beneficial as the consumption of its ingredients individually; so gazpacho can reduce hypertension," he added.
Experts say that hypertension is a major public health problem because it affects nearly a quarter of the adult population. Hypertension is also the leading cause of death in the western population.
The new study analyzed the effect of gazpacho consumption in 3,995 individuals participating in the study PREDIMED, which analyses the effects of Mediterranean diet on the population at high cardiovascular risk to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
Professor Rosa M. Lamuela, who is in charge of the Research Group on Natural Antioxidant of the UB and the coordinator of the study, said that the beneficial effect of gazpacho on arterial pressure has been an "unexpected" finding. She explained that gazpacho contains salt, which is a restricted ingredient to maintain arterial pressure levels.
"Despite this, the results of the study describe that arterial pressure of gazpacho consumers is lower than the one of non-consumers. The reason may be that bioactive elements of gazpacho counteract the effect of salt ingestion," she said.
Researchers found that gazpacho consumption reduced the risk of hypertension by 27 percent in some participants in the study. So what is it about gazpacho that reduces hypertension? After all, the salt in the soup can potentially elevate blood pressure.
"Gazpacho highly contains carotenes, vitamin C and polyphenols. The final balance of the bioactive elements of gazpacho and its salt content makes it to be cardio-healthy; in other words, at the end, the positive effect of all the ingredients that contribute to the reduction of arterial pressure prevails over salt's effect," Medina-Remón explained.
In the future the team hopes to study the mechanism of how foods rich in polyphenols lower arterial pressure, a process researchers suspect is related to an increase of nitric oxide, a molecule with vasodilatation properties on cardiovascular system.