Are you struggling with high blood pressure? Maybe it's time to become a vegetarian.
According to a new study from Japan, taking on a vegetarian diet could reduce high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Researchers have proposed numerous benefits of a vegetarian diet in the past, but a thorough study of the effect on blood pressure had never been conducted. The new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, involved data from seven clinical trials, including 311 participants, along with 32 observational studies, including 21,604 participants. The clinical trials indicated a systolic blood pressure drop of 4.8 mm Hg among vegetarians, as well as a diastolic blood pressure drop of 2.2 mm Hg. The observational studies indicated reductions of 6.9 mm Hg and 4.7 mm Hg.
"A reduction in systolic blood pressure of 5mmHg would be expected to result in a seven percent, nine percent and 14 percent reduction in mortality due to all causes, coronary heart disease, and stroke, respectively," the report said.
High blood pressure affects nearly one third of American adults. Often referred to as the "silent killer," it increases the chance of heart attack and stroke. A healthy blood pressure is considered 120/80 mm Hg. Studies have indicated that each increase of 20/10 mm Hg double's a patient's risk of cardiovascular disease. Lowering blood pressure by 5 mm Hg can reduce chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by seven percent.
A number of reasons can be a attributed to a lowered blood pressure among vegetarians. Vegetarian diets often have reduced amounts of sodium and saturated fats while containing more fiber and potassium. Vegetarians also often have lower body mass indexes due to the fact that fruits and vegetables are less energy dense. That is, you can consume more of them for fewer calories.
According to the study authors, it didn't matter which vegetarian diet a person chose.
"There were no statistical significant differences between specific vegetarian dietary patterns," said researcher Yoko Yokoyama of the department of preventive medicine at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka.
The study, however, has its limitations. Some of the observational studies did not adjust for lifestyle factors like alcohol intake or exercise.
"Most of the data in the review comes from observational studies, and there were only 311 patients total evaluated in clinical trials of limited duration," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, associate chief of the cardiology division at UCLA.
"Further studies are needed," he added.