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Two Glasses of OJ a Day Lowers Blood Pressure, Study Finds

older couple drinking orange juice at breakfast table

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Key Takeaways

  • People with hypertension who drank two glasses of orange juice a day had lower blood pressure after 12 weeks.
  • Researchers think hesperidin, a flavonoid found in orange juice, contributes to improved blood pressure.
  • Orange juice may offer other benefits for heart health as well.

Thanks to a naturally-occurring flavonoid, orange juice may be a good choice to help lower blood pressure, new research shows.

The flavonoid, called hesperidin, is found in citrus foods like oranges, lemons, and limes. Flavonoids are plant chemicals that act as antioxidants in the body, protecting against the damaging effects of free radicals. Hesperidin, in particular, may help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, or high blood pressure.

"What’s especially exciting about this study is it helped to identify that hesperidin, a powerful plant compound found primarily in citrus fruits, may be a key contributor to orange juice’s blood pressure benefits," Gail Rampersaud, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist from the Florida Department of Citrus, tells Verywell. The Florida Department of Citrus provided both a grant and the drinks for the study, but was not involved in study design or publishing.

Orange juice naturally contains 690 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of hesperidin. Researchers found that, over the course of 12 weeks, both 100% orange juice and hesperidin-enriched orange juice (1200 mg/L) effectively lowered systolic blood pressure in people who are pre-hypertensive or stage-1 hypertensive. Their results were published in the European Journal of Nutrition on July 13, 2020.

Regular Orange Juice and Enriched Orange Juice Offer Similar Benefits

The 159 study participants, who were either hypertensive or pre-hypertensive adults, were divided into three groups. Participants in each group drank 500 mL (approximately two cups) a day of either 100% orange juice, 100% orange juice enriched hesperidin, or a control drink with the same calories, vitamin C and citric acid content of orange juice.

Participants who consumed either orange juice or enriched orange juice experienced a similar decrease in systolic blood pressure: an average of a 6.35 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) decrease for orange juice and 7.36 mmHg decrease for enriched orange juice.

What Is Systolic Blood Pressure?

When the heart contracts (an event called a “systole”), it pushes blood out into the arteries. This causes pressure within the arteries to rise. The peak blood pressure reached during active cardiac contraction is called the systolic blood pressure. A normal systolic blood pressure is 120 mmHg or less.

Those who drank orange juice enriched with additional hesperidin also demonstrated a decrease in pulse pressure, which is the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Does Sugar Content Outweigh the Blood Pressure Benefits?

Some clinicians have concerns about recommending 100% orange, which contains about 21 grams of natural sugar.

Melissa Rifkin, RD, a registered dietitian and owner of Melissa Rifkin Nutrition, tells Verywell that she would be interested in seeing if oranges in whole-fruit form, rather than a “sugar-laden beverage," offer the same blood pressure impact. She says that orange juice may not be the best beverage to incorporate into your diet if you have diabetes, since it may cause an unwanted blood sugar spike. 

Rampersaud says that there is evidence to suggest that hesperidin may play a role in delaying the absorption of natural sugars found in 100% orange juice, meaning the beverage wouldn't contribute to blood sugar elevation in the same way that a sugary soda would.

There has been published data supporting this claim, such as a 2014 combining meta-analysis concluding that fruit juice intake had no significant effect on fasting glucose and insulin in adults.

Still, Rampersaud says orange juice is just one part of a heart-healthy diet.

"No food or beverage provides all nutrients," she says. "It is important to look at the entire package of nutrients a food or beverage provides and how it contributes to overall overall diet."

What This Means For You

Hypertension affects 1 out of every 2 adults in the United States. While diet and lifestyle modifications can help, over 80% of people with hypertension end up taking a medication for it as well. Drinking orange juice while you're in the early stages of hypertension could help eliminate the need for medication down the road.

Additional Benefits

Data from the European Journal of Nutrition study also shows that consuming orange juice for 12 weeks—whether fortified with hesperidin or not—may result in a decrease in blood homocysteine, a biomarker of heart disease, as well as a reduction in inflammation.

Rampersaud says that people who drink orange juice may be inclined to make healthier dietary choices in general.

"Research shows that people who regularly drink orange juice tend to have better nutrient intake and overall diet quality than people who don’t," she says. "This further demonstrates the positive role that 100% orange juice can play in a healthy diet.”

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Article Sources
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  2. Florida Citrus. FAQs: 100% OJ and sugar.

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  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about hypertension. Updated February 25, 2020.