Vegetarian diets associated with lower blood pressure

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th March 2014
A vegetarian diet may reduce blood pressure

Eating a vegetarian diet appears to be associated with lower blood pressure, and the diets can also be used to reduce blood pressure, according to research from the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan.

The study, undertaken by Yoko Yokoyama, PhD, MPH, of the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Centre in Osaka, was published on 24 February 2014 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Factors such as diet, body weight, physical activity and alcohol intake play a role in the risk of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension. Dietary modifications have been shown to be effective for preventing and managing hypertension.

Study method

The researchers analysed seven clinical trials and 32 studies published from 1900 to 2013 in which participants ate a vegetarian diet. Net differences in blood pressure associated with eating a vegetarian diet were measured.

In the trials, eating a vegetarian diet was associated with a reduction in the average systolic (peak artery pressure) and diastolic (minimum artery pressure) blood pressure compared with eating an omnivorous (plant and animal) diet. In the 32 studies, eating a vegetarian diet was associated with lower average systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared with omnivorous diets.

“Further studies are required to clarify which types of vegetarian diets are most strongly associated with lower blood pressure,” said Dr Yokoyama. “Research into the implementation of such diets, either as public health initiatives aiming at prevention of hypertension or in clinical settings, would also be of great potential value,” she said.

Financial support for the study was provided by a grant-in-aid for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellows.

Recent animal protein studies

The role of animal based protein in the diet has been the subject of several highly publicised studies in recent weeks. Australian Food News reported earlier in March 2014 that a study from the University of Southern California had found a diet high in animal protein increased the risk of cancer and mortality in middle-aged individuals, but had the opposite effect in elderly individuals.

Research from the University of Sydney found that a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates led to a shorter lifespan.