Monday, February 24, 2014

Research: Switching to a vegetarian diet could cut blood pressure (and has the same effect on readings as losing nearly a stone)

Switching to a vegetarian diet could cut blood pressure
Eating a vegetarian diet is likely to keep your blood pressure low - and switching to it could cut your readings, claim researchers.

A new study shows a vegetarian diet can lead to reductions in blood pressure similar to losing three-quarters of a stone in weight.

The diet achieves around half the drop expected from prescription drugs, according to the study from Japan.

The latest study follows previous research suggesting a vegetarian diet may reduce heart disease risk, and even lead to longer life compared with non-vegetarians.

It is thought the benefits come from lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels in people eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit.

An estimated three million Britons, around five per cent, are vegetarian and never eat meat or fish, including superstar musician Paul McCartney and his fashion designer daughter Stella McCartney.
Blood pressure is measured by checking two readings. Systolic is the pressure inside arteries when the heart is forcing blood through them and diastolic is the pressure when the heart relaxes.
Using a reading given in millimetres of mercury - written as mmHg - doctors can determine if it is high or low.

The latest study analysed seven clinical trials and 32 studies from 1900 to 2013, which involved people eating a vegetarian diet.

In the trials, participants eating a vegetarian diet had systolic blood pressure almost 5mmHg lower than those eating meat and fish.

The fall was almost 7mmHg lower in the studies, says a report in JAMA Internal Medicine.
For diastolic blood pressure, the differences were 2.2 mmHg in trials and almost 5mmHg in studies.
The researcher from the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, Osaka, said this was equivalent to dropping 5kg (11lbs) in weight or pursuing a low-sodium diet, and half the benefit found with modern medication.

'A reduction in systolic blood pressure of 5mmHg would be expected to result in a seven per cent, nine per cent and 14 per cent reduction in mortality due to all causes, coronary heart disease, and stroke, respectively,' says the report.

The main reason for the difference is thought to be the effect of a low-fat vegetarian diet on cholesterol and blood pressure, partly through avoidance of red meat and also from higher consumption of vegetables.

Eating more vegetables and fruit may also help through their antioxidant effects, combating harmful naturally occurring chemicals in the body.

Official advice from the Department of Health in 2010 said cutting down on red meat could reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

Findings from the largest British study of 45,000 Britons last year found vegetarians have healthier hearts than people who eat meat or fish.

They were one-third less likely to need hospital treatment for heart disease or die from it.

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