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(November 30, 2000, Gazette)

Nutritional Approach to
Preventing High Blood Pressure

Dr. Sudesh VasdevPhoto by HSIMS

Dr. Sudesh Vasdev

By Sharon Gray

For the past 20 years, Dr. Sudesh Vasdev, Faculty of Medicine, has been researching high blood pressure, or hypertension. It's a disease that affects more than 24 million people in North America, and puts these people at greater risk of strokes, heart disease and kidney failure.

"In 90 per cent of people with hypertension, we don't know the cause — so I've been looking at why it develops," explained Dr. Vasdev. What he has found is that most people with high blood pressure can't metabolize sugar properly.

"In some ways diabetics and hypertensives are very similar because they have problems with sugar metabolism," he said. The solution to this is reasonably simple, but requires a change in diet and exercise. "People with high blood pressure need to eat less sugar and more complex carbohydrates, exercise every day, and take a good multi-vitamin."

The big three factors in high blood pressure in humans are obesity, high alcohol consumption and high salt intake. With animal models, Dr. Vasdev has shown that daily low intake of alcohol or dietary supplementation with the amino acid cysteine, Vitamin B6 or lipoic acid can normalize high blood pressure. Recently, he has also found that Vitamin C is effective in animal models in controlling blood pressure.

Dr. Vasdev's research, which has been supported by the Medical Research Council of Canada for 20 years, has been significant in identifying the role of endogenous aldehydes in hypertension. Aldehydes are a group of highly reactive compounds normally formed in human and animal tissues in very low amounts. Under normal conditions, tissue aldehyde levels are maintained at a low level. But Dr. Vasdev has shown that in hypertensive humans and rats there is impaired sugar metabolism with a variety of accompanying physiological changes, including an increase in tissue aldehydes.

Aldehydes affect calcium channels in blood vessels, making them contract more readily causing higher pressure in these blood vessels. Dr. Vasdev has proposed a unique and unifying hypothesis: excess endogenous aldehydes are the cause of essential hypertension.

"Taking supplements such as Vitamin B6, lipoic acid or Vitamin C increases the body's level of aldehyde binding compounds and can prevent hypertension. This nutritional approach to prevent high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney damage, would have minimal side effects and be very cost effective."

Over the years, Dr. Vasdev has worked with many collaborators, particularly Linda Longerich, Community Health, and Dr. Sushil Parai, Pathology.

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