Eating bran could help lower blood pressure, the Council of Agriculture said on Sunday, citing research it conducted on the effects of brown rice and similar grains on the circulatory system.
Researchers examined the ability of the grains to inhibit the contraction of arteries, the council said, adding that bran was most effective at doing so, followed by brown rice and white rice.
The results were surprising, given that bran is traditionally used by Taiwanese as animal feed rather than for human consumption, it said.
Researchers were looking for a way to inhibit vasoconstriction — the narrowing of blood vessels due to contractions of their muscular walls, said Yang Shu-hui (楊淑惠), an assistant researcher at the council’s research facility in Kaohsiung’s Fengshan District (鳳山).
Vasoconstriction occurs when enzymes catalyze angiotensin — a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure — resulting in increased blood pressure, Yang said, adding that finding a substance that could inhibit this catalyst could be used to treat hypertension.
Many researchers have explored the potential of natural foods to inhibit angiotensin catalysis, so the team sought to determine how effectively domestically grown colored grains perform this function, she said.
The team directly applied elements within the grains to the enzymes to measure their effects, she said.
The research found that while colored grains in general are much more effective than rice at inhibiting catalysis, bran in particular tested 59 times more effective than the next closest grain, brown rice, Yang said.
While bran might not be practical as a replacement for rice, it might be possible to create beverages with it, she said, adding that people could mix brown and white rice and cook them together.
Grain products differ only by the amount of processing, Agriculture and Food Agency specialist Juang Lao-dar (莊老達) said.
For example, brown rice is produced by removing the inedible outer hull, but retaining the outer bran layer and cereal germ, while white rice is the same grain of rice with the bran and cereal germ removed, Juang said.
Brown rice is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, manganese and fiber, he added.
While there have been many research projects focused on the benefits of whole grains for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other conditions, those with kidney and intestinal problems should exercise caution, John Tung Foundation Food and Nutrition Division director Hsu Hui-yu (許惠玉) said.
People with health conditions to consult a nutritionist before increasing their intake of colored grains, Hsu added.
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