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Sweetener May Lower Blood Pressure

Sugar Substitute OFS May Also Improve Cholesterol Levels
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

artificial_sweetners_lower_bp_2.jpg

Nov. 20, 2009 (Orlando, Fla.) -- An artificial sweetener that's been shown to help people shed unwanted pounds may also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in people with mild or borderline high blood pressure, Chinese researchers report.

The sugar substitute is called oligofructose, or OFS. It's used to replace fat or sugar and reduce the calories of foods like ice cream, dairy products, and baked goods. OFS has about 30% to 50% of the sweetness of table sugar, according to the FDA.

The study involved 96 adults, ages 32 to 63, with mild or borderline hypertension. That means their systolic blood pressure reading (top number) was 120 to 139 and/or their diastolic (bottom number) reading was 80 to 89.

The condition, also referred to as prehypertension, is a warning sign you may get high blood pressure -- a risk factor for heart attack and stroke -- in the future.

OFS Supplements Lower Blood Pressure, Cholesterol

In the study, reported at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA), participants were given either 20 grams of OFS or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. 

"Beneficial changes in both blood pressure and cholesterol were observed in the OFS group," says researcher Dan Qu, MD, PhD, of Changhai Hospital in Shanghai, China.

By the end of the 12-week period:

  • Systolic blood pressure dropped an average of 6.9 points in the OFS group, compared with 3.5 in the placebo group.
  • Diastolic blood pressure decreased an average of 7.3 points in the OFS group vs. 2.3 in the placebo group.
  • Levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides also dropped more in participants given OFS than in those who took placebo tablets.

Surprisingly, people in both groups dropped an equal amount of weight, Qu says.

"OFS supplements lead to reduction in blood pressure and improvements in lipid metabolism in [people with] prehypertension," he says.

"Further research is needed to see if taking the supplements for a period of time would decrease the [risk] of heart attacks and stroke," Qu says.

Asked to comment on the findings, AHA spokeswoman Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, a nutritionist at Tufts University, tells WebMD that "the study is very interesting. But we need further study before we can make recommendations about whether people should take OFS supplements."

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