I have read that researchers in India found that men who replaced the corn and vegetable oils in their diets with sesame seed oil lowered their BP by more than 30 points in just 60 days. Does this work? If so, how much oil must be ingested each day?—Gerard K. Nash, DO, Amarillo, Tex.

There have been many studies concerning BP and dietary fatty acids, involving manipulation of either diet or supplements. Of course, results vary, but a reasonable consensus can be conveyed.

Fish oil, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid, seems to lower systolic BP by about 5 mm Hg. Interestingly, this fall in BP is seen only in people consuming fish less often than three times a week. In those consuming fish more than three times a week, the fish-oil supplement had no effect on BP. This is analogous to the effect of potassium supplements: Potassium supplements lower BP in people with potassium-deficient diets.

The more holistic approach is to improve the diet rather than take supplements. Studies also seem consistent in finding that corn oil does not lower BP. Finally, the effect of linoleic acid is controversial, with lowering of BP seen in some studies but not in others.

I would doubt that sesame oil is uniquely potent among vegetable oils and would strongly doubt that it lowers BP by 30 mm Hg. I have not seen a study specifically addressing sesame oil, but even if it were effective, a decrease of 5 mm Hg would be as much as could be expected. — Samuel J. Mann, MD (157-5)

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