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Pea Proteins May Prevent Kidney Disease

Pea protein hydrolysates appear to have a dramatic effect on blood pressure in rats with kidney disease.

Researchers in Canada are reporting that proteins found in a common garden pea show promise as a natural food additive or new dietary supplement for fighting high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease (CKD).  They found that blood pressure in rats with kidney disease fed protein hydrolysates from this pea variety reduced by 20% compared to control rats after 8 weeks of feeding. This study, presented at the American Chemical Society’s 237th National Meeting, is the first reporting that a natural food product can relieve symptoms of CKD, the scientists say.

Peas long have been recognized as health food being high in protein and low in fat. Several research groups are studying  the biological effects of protein hydrolysates and they have found that hydrolysates from several protein sources appear to contain angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors.  Animal studies show that these hydrolysates can reduce high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for CKD, a condition that has been affecting an increasing number of people in the United States and other countries. Estimates suggest that 13 percent of American adults — about 26 million people — have chronic kidney disease, up from 10 percent, or about 20 million people, in the 1990s.

Harold Aukema and Rotimi 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, the researchers say.

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.

“That’s a huge improvement,” says Aluko, adding that there were no obvious adverse side effects from the pea protein.

Based on those promising results, the researchers plan to test the protein extract in humans with mild hypertension within the next year at the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, University of Manitoba, in collaboration with co-investigator Dr. Peter Jones. 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 say.

Aluko points out that eating yellow peas in their natural state won’t produce the same potential health benefits as the purified protein extract. The potentially beneficial proteins exist in an inactive state in natural peas, and must be activated by treatment with special enzymes.

The government of Canada funded the research through its Advanced Foods and Materials Network of Centre of Excellence (AFMnet). Nutri-Pea Ltd., a private Canadian company that specializes in making food products from yellow peas, was the industrial partner for the project.

Prepared search: protein hydrolysates and blood pressure


Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Isobel Hoskins
  • Date
  • 24 March 2009
  • Subject(s)
  • Nutrition physiology