Passion fruit extract can reduce severity of asthma and lower blood pressure, New Zealand researchers say.
In a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial run in the United States, fewer than 20 per cent of people receiving an extract made from purple passion fruit skins still had wheeze as a clinical symptom of asthma, compared to about 80 per cent of those in the placebo group.
A parallel study showed that passion fruit treatment also significantly decreased blood pressure in those taking part in the trial.
The trials were directed by Professor Ronald Watson from the University of Arizona and Southwest Scientific Editing and Consulting. The bioactive properties of passion fruit have been established by New Zealand scientists working at Industrial Research Ltd (IRL), says an IRL press release.
The findings, published in Nutrition Research
, have caused a stir in the international medical and scientific communities.
"In the United States there are a lot of dietary supplements and natural products that are sold without much, or any, evidence of efficacy," says Ronald Watson.
"We now have two scientific publications indicating passion fruit has a beneficial effect on two very common but very different human diseases - hypertension and asthma - and that's very exciting."
Passion fruit are known to be rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of potassium and iron. The seeds are high in fibre. The seeds are high in fibre.
Introduced and grown in most tropical and subtropical parts of the world, the rounded or egg-shaped passion fruit is particularly important commercially in Australia, Hawaii, South Africa and Brazil.
The passion fruit breakthrough comes from a collaboration between Professor Watson and IRL natural products chemist Dr Lai Yeap Foo.
"Many natural products like fruit and vegetables are known to have properties that have been shown to work just as well as pharmaceuticals, and that is appealing to people who don't like the unpleasant side effects of pharmaceuticals," says Professor Watson.