A recent study conducted at Temple University highlights the potential of bainiku-ekisu, a concentrated juice derived from the Japanese plum, as a novel approach for treating hypertension. The research demonstrated that this juice concentrate offered protection against inflammation and hypertrophy, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease—a significant concern for individuals with high blood pressure. Currently, the research team is working to identify the specific compounds responsible for these beneficial effects.
In experiments involving mice, a processed and infused juice concentrate exhibited anti-hypertensive properties.
Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, affects over 122 million Americans, accounting for nearly half of the adult population in the United States. It represents a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, and despite advancements in treatment, individuals who rely on medications to control their blood pressure remain at a heightened risk of death from conditions like heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
The limited availability of effective drugs to manage hypertension and associated cardiovascular issues has sparked a search for alternative treatment strategies. Researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University have discovered a promising option. Their recent work indicates that consuming a simple juice concentrate derived from the Japanese plum (Prunus mume) may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Japanese plum is widely consumed in Asian countries and is promoted as a health food in Japan. The findings of this study are published online in the journal Hypertension Research.
Dr. Satoru Eguchi, MD, PhD, FAHA, a professor at the Cardiovascular Research Center, Sol Sherry Thrombosis Research Center, and Center for Metabolic Disease Research at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, and the senior investigator and co-corresponding author of the study, explains, “It is recognized that drugs alone are not enough to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in hypertension patients. To help solve this problem, we became interested in a supplement that could potentially decrease cardiovascular disease risk and began investigating the effects of bainiku-ekisu, an infused juice concentrate of the Japanese plum.”
Traditionally referred to as “Ume” in Japan, the raw fruit of the Japanese plum contains toxins, leading to its processing into safe-to-consume juices or wine. The infused juice concentrate, known as bainiku-ekisu, has been consumed in Japan as a health supplement since the 18th century. Numerous claims have been made about the benefits of bainiku-ekisu, including its ability to prevent heart disease. Although existing studies are limited, they support these claims. In experiments conducted on smooth muscle cells in blood vessels, bainiku-ekisu was found to counteract growth-promoting signals induced by angiotensin II—a circulatory hormone that plays a central role in the development of hypertension.
To gain further insights into the potential anti-hypertensive effects of bainiku-ekisu, Dr. Eguchi and Dr. Hirotoshi Utsunomiya, a professor in the Department of Rehabilitation at Osaka Kawasaki Rehabilitation University in Japan and co-corresponding author of the report, utilized a mouse model. These animals were induced with hypertension by receiving infusions of angiotensin II. Subsequently, the mice were provided with either plain water (the control group) or water containing bainiku-ekisu.
Evaluation of cardiovascular function and vascular tissues from both groups of mice revealed significant differences. Particularly, the mice given bainiku-ekisu did not develop hypertension. Tissue analysis in these animals indicated that the juice concentrate protected the vasculature from the effects of angiotensin II. Notably, the mice given bainiku-ekisu showed minimal hypertrophy (enlargement) of the aorta compared to the control group, which exhibited marked aortic hypertrophy. Additionally, bainiku-ekisu mitigated the infiltration of immune cells, which trigger inflammatory processes associated with hypertension.
Further investigating the mechanisms by which bainiku-ekisu prevented hypertension in mice, Dr. Eguchi and colleagues focused on molecular pathways related to glycolysis—the process by which cells break down glucose—a key feature of hypertension-induced hypertrophy.
“In hypertension, cells shift from aerobic metabolism to glycolysis because there is less oxygen available in the cellular environment,” explains Dr. Eguchi. “This switch results in high levels of oxidative stress, which leads to more inflammation, more vascular stiffness, and, eventually, the development of more severe cardiovascular disease.” The team’s cell experiments demonstrated that bainiku-ekisu prevents the switch to glycolysis, indicating its potential to safeguard against angiotensin II-induced hypertension by countering harmful metabolic changes underlying hypertrophy and inflammation.
Moving forward, Dr. Eguchi and his colleagues plan to identify the specific compounds in bainiku-ekisu responsible for its protective effects. “There may be two or three compounds working together, which could explain why the infused juice concentrate of Ume is so popular as a health supplement,” notes Dr. Eguchi. “Multiple compounds working together would produce additive or synergistic effects that might be lost in a pharmaceutical preparation.”
Reference: “Infused juice concentrate of Japanese plum Prunus mume attenuates inflammatory vascular remodeling in a mouse model of hypertension induced by angiotensin II” by Keisuke Okuno, Keiichi Torimoto, Ryohei Kuroda, Stephanie M. Cicalese, Yoshiharu Okuno, Ryohei Kono, Shinsuke Marumoto, Hirotoshi Utsunomiya, and Satoru Eguchi, 13 June 2023, Hypertension Research.
Other researchers involved in the study include Keisuke Okuno, Keiichi Torimoto, Ryohei Kuroda, and Stephanie M. Cicalese from the Department of Cardiovascular Science at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University; Yoshiharu Okuno from the National Institute of Technology, Wakayama College, Gobo, Japan; Ryohei Kono from the Department of Rehabilitation, Osaka Kawasaki Rehabilitation University, Kaizuka, Osaka, Japan; and Shinsuke Marumoto from Kindai University, Osaka, Japan.
This research received support from the National Institutes of Health and a research gift fund from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Japan.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Plum juice concentrate
What is bainiku-ekisu?
Bainiku-ekisu is a juice concentrate derived from the Japanese plum (Prunus mume). It has been consumed in Japan as a health supplement for centuries and is known for its potential benefits in cardiovascular health.
How does bainiku-ekisu help with hypertension?
Studies have shown that bainiku-ekisu exhibits anti-hypertensive effects. It protects against inflammation and hypertrophy, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is a major concern for individuals with high blood pressure.
What are the potential benefits of bainiku-ekisu for cardiovascular health?
Bainiku-ekisu may help in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by protecting the vasculature from the effects of angiotensin II, a hormone involved in hypertension. It also attenuates the infiltration of immune cells associated with hypertension-related inflammation.
Is bainiku-ekisu safe for consumption?
Bainiku-ekisu is derived from the processed Japanese plum, which is traditionally consumed as a safe food in Asian countries. However, it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating any new supplement or food into your diet.
Are there any ongoing studies or future research on bainiku-ekisu?
The researchers are currently working to identify the specific compounds in bainiku-ekisu responsible for its protective effects. Further research aims to explore the potential synergistic effects of multiple compounds in bainiku-ekisu and investigate its application in pharmaceutical preparations.
More about Plum juice concentrate
- Hypertension Research: Infused juice concentrate of Japanese plum Prunus mume attenuates inflammatory vascular remodeling in a mouse model of hypertension induced by angiotensin II
- Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University
- National Institutes of Health