April 28, 2003 -- It's tasty. It's good for you. Now there's another sesame oil benefit: It may lower high blood pressure.
Sesame oil is one of those vegetable oils that are good for you. Most nutritionists like it for two reasons. First, it's rich in mono- and polyunsaturated acids (PUFAs) -- the good kind of fat that cuts cholesterol. Second, sesame oil is low in saturated fats -- the kind of fat that's bad for you. And there's more. Sesame oil contains two unique chemicals called sesamol and sesamin. They are very powerful antioxidants.
Now there's evidence that sesame oil can lower blood pressure. It comes in a report to the American Heart Association's annual meeting of the Inter-American Society of Hypertension by Devarajan Sankar, DO, PhD, of Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India.
Sankar and colleagues studied 195 men and 133 women with high blood pressure. All were taking nifedipine (brand names include Adalta, Nifedical, and Procardia), a common blood pressure-lowering drug. Despite this treatment, all patients still had moderate high blood pressure. Sankar's team asked the patients to switch to sesame oil as the only cooking oil they used.
Sixty days later, the patients' average blood pressure dropped into the normal range.
"The reduction in blood pressure in our study may be due to the presence of PUFAs, vitamin E, and sesamin in sesame oil," Sankar tells WebMD. "The blood-pressure reduction was noted at the third week of using sesame oil as the sole edible oil."
It's an impressive finding, agrees Sampath Parthasarathy, PhD, director of gynecology and obstetrics research at Atlanta's Emory University. Parthasarathy, a biochemist, is a leading expert in antioxidants and lipid/protein metabolism.
"Usually the benefits of these unsaturated fats are measured in terms of cholesterol lowering," Parthasarathy tells WebMD. "Here, the benefit appears to be on blood pressure. That makes the study even more exciting."
Parthasarathy says he doesn't think that the PUFAs are involved in the blood-pressure-lowering effect of sesame oil. But he speculates that lower blood pressure may be an indirect effect of sesamin, sesamol, or both.