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Mar 07, 2014

Vegetarian Diet Lowers Blood Pressure

Vegetarians have lower blood pressure than meat eaters, according to a review of past research studies.

Lowering blood pressure may be as simple as cutting meat out of your diet, according to a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In this article, researchers analyzed results of 39 studies from the last few decades that looked at the relationship between diet and blood pressure. Although there’s plenty of evidence that suggests vegetarian diets promote heart health by reducing blood pressure, findings have been mixed. By reviewing past research and comparing results, authors hoped to establish once and for all whether a vegetarian diet promotes a healthy blood pressure.

Together, the 39 studies included nearly 22,000 participants that followed different types of diets ranging from vegan (no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products) to "omnivorous" (no dietary restrictions). All studies compared the blood pressure of participants with a vegetarian vs. meat diet and after analyzing the results of each study, researchers found that vegetarians had significantly lower blood pressure than meat eaters. In fact, vegetarians had as much as 6.9mmHG lower systolic blood pressure and 4.7mmHg lower diastolic blood pressure compared to meat-eaters. And according to experts, these differences could help drastically lower an individual’s risk for heart disease and death.

Based on their findings, authors suggest that adopting a vegetarian diet is a good way to help patients reduce their blood pressure without medication. It’s estimated that one in three American adults has high blood pressure, more than half of which don’t have their blood pressure under control. By offering patients more options for lowering blood pressure, like by cutting out meat, they’re more likely to make lifestyle changes that work for them. For example, if cutting out salt is difficult for a patient trying to lower their blood pressure, avoiding meat may be a better option to help achieve a healthy blood pressure. After all, according to this study adopting a vegetarian diet may be as powerful as a low-sodium diet or weight loss (of 11 pounds) when it comes to lowering blood pressure.

The question now, authors state, is which type of vegetarian diet lowers blood pressure the most. Is a strict vegetarian diet most effective in reducing blood pressure? Or, does the addition of heart-healthy foods like fish help further lower blood pressure? Through additional research, experts hope to compare these types of diets in order to help patients manage or prevent high blood pressure more effectively.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a vegetarian?
  • Although the term vegetarian typically refers to someone who doesn’t eat meat, there are different types of vegetarians. Vegans are the strictest type of vegetarians, who avoid any type of meat or foods derived from animals (dairy, eggs, etc.). Other types of vegetarians eat dairy (lacto-vegetarians) or dairy and eggs (lacto-ovo-vegetarians), but avoid all other meat and fish.

  • How can I lower my blood pressure through diet?
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways to help lower blood pressure. Limiting salt intake and eating plenty of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, like with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, can help significantly lower blood pressure.

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