In this intervention study, we have investigated if hypertensive patients are more sensitive to liquorice-induced inhibition of 11 β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11 β-HSD) type 2 than normotensive (NT) subjects and if the response depends on gender. Healthy volunteers and patients with essential hypertension (HT), consumed 100 g of liquorice daily, for 4 weeks, corresponding to a daily intake of 150 mg glycyrrhetinic acid. Office, 24-h ambulatory blood pressure (BP) and blood samples were measured before, during and after liquorice consumption. Effect on cortisol metabolism was evaluated by determining the urinary total cortisol metabolites and urinary free cortisol/free cortisone quotient (Q). The mean rise in systolic BP with office measurements after 4 weeks of liquorice consumption was 3.5 mmHg (p<0.06) in NT and 15.3 mmHg (p=0.003) in hypertensive subjects, the response being different (p=0.004). The mean rise in diastolic BP was 3.6 mmHg (p=0.01) in NT and 9.3 mmHg (p<0.001) in hypertensive subjects, the response also being different (p=0.03). Liquorice induced more pronounced clinical symptoms in women than in men (p=0.0008), although the difference in the effect on the BP was not significant. The increase in Q was prominent (p<0.0001) and correlated to the rise in BP (p=0.02). The rise in BP was not dependant on age, the change in plasma renin activity or weight. We conclude that patients with essential HT are more sensitive to the inhibition of 11 β-HSD by liquorice than NT subjects, and that this inhibition causes more clinical symptoms in women than in men.
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We thank the Malaco sweet factory in Sweden for kindly supplying all liquorice. This study was supported by a grant from The Göteborg Medical Society.
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Sigurjonsdottir, H., Manhem, K., Axelson, M. et al. Subjects with essential hypertension are more sensitive to the inhibition of 11 β-HSD by liquorice. J Hum Hypertens 17, 125–131 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jhh.1001504
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