Researchers in Canada have found that proteins from a common garden pea could be used as a food additive or new dietary supplement to fight high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Researchers said that the study is the first to report that a natural food product can relieve symptoms of CKD.
"In people with high blood pressure, our protein could potentially delay or prevent the onset of kidney damage. In people who already have kidney disease, our protein may help them maintain normal blood pressure levels so they can live longer," said study presenter Rotimi Aluko, Ph.D., a food chemist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.
Working with University of Manitoba colleague Harold Aukema, Ph.D., Aluko purified a mixture of small proteins — called pea protein hydrolysate — from the yellow garden pea.
The researchers fed small daily doses of the protein mixture to laboratory rats with polycystic kidney disease, a severe form of kidney disease used as a model for research on CKD.
At the end of the 8-week-long study period, the protein-fed rats with kidney disease showed a 20 percent drop in blood pressure when compared to diseased rats on a normal diet.
"This is significant because a majority of CKD patients actually die from cardiovascular complications that arise from the high blood pressure associated with kidney malfunction," Aluko said.
In both rats and humans with polycystic kidney disease, the condition causes urine output to be severely reduced and the kidneys are unable to properly remove dangerous toxins.
The researchers showed that their pea extract caused a 30 percent boost in urine production in the diseased rats, bringing their urine to within normal levels.
Scientists do not know exactly how the pea extract works. However, it appears to boost production of cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1), a protein that boosts kidney function, the researchers said.
The study will be presented at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting.