Vegetarian Blood Pressure Study: Diet Could Reduce Hypertension Risk

Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 11:44 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A new review of numerous past studies suggest that vegetarian diets reduce the risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension, and other heart complications.

Scientists in the United States and Japan conducted a meta-analysis of 39 high-quality, hypertension studies from 18 countries that involved more than 21,000 participants. They found that vegetarians, across the board, had lower and healthier blood pressure levels, according to The Los Angeles Times. The results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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"Consumption of vegetarian diets is associated with lower (blood pressure)," the study's conclusion read. "Such diets could be a useful nonpharmacologic means for reducing (blood pressure.)" 

Vegetarian diets were tied to an average 6.9-point drop in systolic blood pressure and a 4.7-point drop in diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is measured when the heart is contracting. Diastolic pressure is measured when the heart is in between beats.

"Just a five-point drop" in systolic blood pressure, applied on average across the United States, "would lead to a 9 percent drop in heart disease, and a 14 percent drop in stroke," Dr. Neal Barnard, a co-author of the study, told The Los Angeles Times. "That's terrific. Show me a medication that does that."

LiveScience.com reported that another JAMA study in June looked at 73,000 people and noted that vegetarians had a lower risk of dying over a six-year span compared to meat-eating people, but those benefits varied.

Pesco-vegetarians, those who eat fish and vegetables, had the lowest risk. That group was followed by vegans, or those who eat no animal products whatsoever, followed by lacto-ovo-vegetarians, or those who eat milk and eggs and vegetables but no meat.

The researchers said that they hoped the latest study will specify which types of vegetarian diets are best for lowering blood pressure.

Several factors contribute to healthy blood pressure, including diets that are low in sodium and saturated fats and high in fiber and potassium.

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