Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eat This. Lower Your Blood Pressure

It's all about protein. People who get most of their protein from vegetables have much lower blood pressure than people who eat a lot of meat and dairy products.

That's the word from an international study of 4,700 middle-aged adults ages 40 to 59 from the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Japan conducted by researchers at the Imperial College London. The ideal diet for a healthy blood pressure consists primarily of vegetables, beans, whole grains and fruit. You don't need to become a vegetarian and shun all meat to benefit. Reuters reports that even a small increase in the proportion of calories derived from vegetable protein instead of animal protein can lower your blood pressure some.

Interestingly, the benefit of eating a plant-based diet appears to be independent of other factors that can raise or lower blood pressure, such as exercise, sodium intake and body weight.

The study: The more than 4,500 participants from four countries had their blood pressure measured repeatedly over a three- to six-week period. For four of those times, they told the researchers what they had eaten in the past 24 hours. They also completed questionnaires on their health and lifestyle factors.

The findings: Average blood pressure levels dropped as vegetable protein was increased, reports Reuters. The opposite also held true. As animal protein increased, blood pressure rose, but this was fully explained by the heavier weights of people who ate a lot of meat and dairy products.

Why? Lead study author Dr. Paul Elliott says it's difficult to name the exact reason why vegetable protein lowers blood pressure, but he suspects the increased amounts of fiber and magnesium in that kind of diet play a role. Amino acids may also have a part in lowering blood pressure. Some of these building blocks of protein have been shown to influence blood pressure, and different amino acids are present in those whose diets are high in vegetable protein than in those that contained more animal protein.

"Our results are consistent with current recommendations that a diet high in vegetable products be part of a healthy lifestyle for prevention of high blood pressure and related chronic diseases," the authors write in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

HINT: Healthy Vegetarian menus at