Why are raisins a heart healthy snack?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Raisins are a heart healthy snack, found in a new, small study.
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Snacking on raisins is touted for lowering blood pressure. Thanks to new, though small study, we now know raisins officially keep blood pressure lower.

Raisins beneficial for prehypertension

Findings presented today at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session, show that eating raisins a few times a day can help lower blood pressure that is ‘mildly’ elevated, known as pre-hypertension.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, mild elevation in blood pressure affects one in 3 U.S. adults. If your blood pressure is consistently 120 to 139 mm Hg systolic (the top number) or a diastolic pressure from 80 to 89 mm Hg (the bottom number), you may want to consider dietary and lifestyle interventions even before the need for medications arises.

The reason raisins are heart healthy may be because they contain high levels of potassium that is known to lower blood pressure, but researchers still aren’t sure.

Harold Bays, MD, medical director and president of Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center (L-MARC) and the study's lead investigator explained in a media release, there hasn’t been any medical evidence that raisins help lower blood pressure.

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Bays and his team studied 46 men and women who were given either raisins to snack on three times a day for 12 weeks or other snacks with the same calories that didn’t contain any fruits or vegetables. All of the study participants had prehypertension. The researchers adjusted their findings for individual differences in physical activity and overall nutrition.

Compared to other snacks, like prepackaged crackers and cookies, raisins lowered systolic blood pressure -6.0 to -10.2 mmHg at weeks 4, 8 and 12. Diastolic blood pressure was lowered -2.4 to - 5.2 mmHg. "Overall, these findings support what many people intrinsically believe: that natural foods often have greater health benefits than processed foods," Dr. Bays said.

The study, said Bays, is exciting because it can help consumers find natural ways toward better health, using the same scientific research methods required for developing pharmaceuticals. He also cautions larger studies are needed to validate the blood pressure regulating effect that comes from snacking on raisins. Besides potassium, raisins are a good source of fiber and antioxidants, low fat and calories and they have an indefinite shelf-life.

Source:
CardioSource
March 25, 2011

Image credit: Bing

Resource:
CDC
"Hypertension Awareness, Treatment, and Control —
Continued Disparities in Adults: United States, 2005–2006"

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Comments

I appreciate the fact that raisins are packed with nutrition. On the other hand, dried fruit is very high in concentrated sugar. Why would the research not use all fruits? The other snacks were empty calories, processed most likely with chemicals and trans fats. Thats not much of a comparison!
Hi Sheri - one thing is the blood pressure effect from raisins specifically, with regards to studying 'all fruits'. Raisins are promoted for blood pressure lowering and they wanted to prove it's so. I think they just used popular snacks for comparison to show there is a better option for consumers when you're reaching for something 'typical', though I'm speculating.