Scientists are tackling cardiovascular disease with milk peptides and plant sterols in a spread

Scientists from Finland have shown that a spread containing milk peptides and plant sterols could lower systolic blood pressure and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.

Cardiovascular disease rates are increasing around the world and its prevention is therefore becoming more pressing, particularly as the disease is typically at an advanced stage when symptoms appear. The spread was developed by Anu Turpeinen at Valio, a company that manufactures dairy products in Helsinki, and colleagues. It offers an economical option in which only a small lifestyle change is required to enjoy the benefits and side-effects are minimal.

The milk peptides are thought to be responsible for the antihypertensive - blood pressure reducing - effects by inhibiting a blood pressure regulator called angiotensin converting enzyme. The lowered LDL cholesterol levels are attributed to the plant sterols preventing intestinal cholesterol absorption, but further research is required on the precise mechanisms of action.


The spread combines the blood pressure reducing effect of milk and the cholesterol lowering effect of plant sterols

David Kerins from University College Cork, who is also an investigator with Food for Health, Ireland, says that the report is very exciting. ’Elevations in blood pressure and LDL are important population-based risk factors for atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries],’ he says. ’Although the spread had modest reductions in systolic blood pressure [a measure of blood pressure while the heart is beating] and not on ambulatory blood pressure [blood pressure measurements at regular intervals], and showed a modest decrease in LDL cholesterol, the results, if extrapolated to the population at risk for coronary artery disease would have important and beneficial public health implications.’

Hariom Yadav from the National Institutes of Health, US, whose research includes functional foods, cautions that ’studies like this should pay attention to physical measures in subjects, because if such functional foods that contain fat are consumed long term on a regular basis, they might cause body weight gain by supplying extra calories’.

Jennifer Newton