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Saturday, April 18, 2009

GREEN PEAS: Small wonder

Study shows pea protein could prevent onset of kidney damage

EVELINE GAN eveline@mediacorp.com.sg

THE humble pea may soon play a significant role in combating chronic kidney disease (CKD) and high blood pressure.

A recent study, presented at the American Chemical Society’s conference, found that proteins in peas can naturally relieve symptoms of CKD and combat hypertension.

“In people with high blood pressure, protein could potentially delay or prevent the onset of kidney damage. For those who already have kidney disease, it may help them maintain normal blood pressure levels so they can live longer,” said study author Dr Rotimi Aluko, a food chemist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, of his findings.

Dr Aluko, one of the researchers, fed small daily doses of concentrated pea protein to laboratory rats with kidney disease for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the protein-fed rats showed a 20-per-cent decrease in blood pressure when compared to diseased rats on a normal diet.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for CKD. End-stage CKD is irreversible, and the patient usually requires kidney dialysis or a transplant.

Cardiovascular complications associated with kidney failure can be fatal.

Singapore has one of the highest incidence of kidney failure in the world, with about 750 people diagnosed yearly, according to National Kidney Foundation statistics. About one in five Singaporeans suffer from high blood pressure.

Peas — typically consumed fresh, frozen or canned — have long been recognised as a nutritious super-vegetable. Mrs Victoria Hally, a dietitian at The Food Clinic, told Today that they are low in fat, and packed with protein, vitamins, minerals and soluble fibre.

According to the UK-registered dietitian, the soluble fibre found in peas is also important in reducing blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels.

Regular peas contain about 4.3g of protein per serving (100g) while split peas, which are used in soups and dhal and are a good source of protein for vegetarians, contain significantly higher protein content at 16g per serving. An average Singaporean adult requires about 58 to 68g of protein each day.

But go easy on canned peas, advised Mrs Hally. “They are often preserved in high levels of salt which contribute to high blood pressure. Fresh, frozen or dried peas are healthier choices,” she said.

Mrs Hally also added that in spite of the promising study results, it is important to note that there is currently no evidence that the pea protein works on humans with pre-existing chronic kidney disease.

“It is important to note that CKD is a complex disease. Often, patients with the chronic condition will require medication to control high blood pressure. Pea protein alone may not be sufficient,” she said.

From TODAY, Health – Tuesday, 14-April-2009