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Passionfruit extract helps asthmatics breathe easy

Media release
26 May 2008

Passionfruit extract helps asthmatics breathe easier

Scientific trials have shown that a passionfruit extract researched and developed in New Zealand can significantly reduce the severity of wheezing and coughing among asthma patients and also help to reduce blood pressure.

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 passionfruit 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 passionfruit 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 passionfruit have been established by New Zealand scientists working at Industrial Research Ltd (IRL).

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 passionfruit has a beneficial effect on two very common but very different human diseases – hypertension and asthma – and that’s very exciting.”

The passionfruit breakthrough comes from a collaboration between Professor Watson and IRL natural products chemist Dr Lai Yeap Foo, which began with a chance meeting over lunch in 1999. The two men were seated next to each other during an international conference in France.

IRL has been responsible for producing the passionfruit extract while Professor Watson has directed the trials.

Dr Foo first identified the potential in passionfruit extract a few years ago and has carried out extensive research to identify the compounds in it. The extract is now under license to an established nutraceutical company in the United States.

Asthma affects almost five per cent of the population in the US and incidence is increasing rapidly. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is responsible for 40,000 deaths in the US each year and affects about one in four adults, or almost 50 million people in the US alone.

Professor Watson says many Americans prefer natural medicines to pharmaceutical drugs.

“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.


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