AsianScientist (Aug. 21, 2015) – Humans have long taken note of the possible blood-pressure-lowering effects of asparagus. Going back into antiquity, it is claimed even that Egypt’s Pharaoh Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti called asparagus a “food of the gods.” On a more scientific note, researchers from RIKEN and Chiba University have determined that sulfur-containing compounds in asparagus can inhibit angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), an enzyme known to contribute to hypertension.
Their work, published in Journal of Natural Products, made use of targeted metabolomics to screen for and identify new sulfur-containing compounds in asparagus. The screen focused on sulfur-containing compounds as they are known to be crucial for ACE inhibition.
To identify the molecule, the group used mass spectrometry—a technique that involves scanning compounds to find the molecules contained within them—and looked specifically for different molecules containing sulfur. They identified several and then screened them to test their effectiveness in inhibiting ACE. The new compound they found in asparagus spears—asparaptine—turns out to have a very high effectiveness in ACE-inhibition.
According to Dr. Nakabayashi Ryo, the first author of the study, “Sulfur-containing compounds have been reported to have a range of benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-cancer effects. We will be able to use this efficient method to find new substances and to help get a better understanding of what plant compounds can have a positive effect on human health.”
Their work paved a way for future characterization of the health benefits of asparagus, and also the use of metabolomics in discovery of new bioactive compounds in natural health products.
The article can be found at: Nakabayashi et al. (2015) Top-down Targeted Metabolomics Reveals a Sulfur-Containing Metabolite with Inhibitory Activity against Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme in Asparagus officinalis.
Source: RIKEN; Photo: woodleywonderworks/Flickr/CC.
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