Maintaining a vegetarian diet can be an effective way to lower blood pressure without using medications, according to a new study.
Vegetarianism is a dietary practice characterized by the consumption of only vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains and pulses, and excluding the consumption of all body parts of any animal and products derived from animal carcasses (such as lard, tallow, gelatin, cochineal), from one's diet. The American Dietetic Association states that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be consistent with good nutritional intake. Dietary recommendations vary with the type of vegetarian diet. For children and adolescents these diets require special planning since it may be difficult to obtain all the nutrients required for growth and development.
In a recent study, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search for well-designed clinical trials evaluating the association between vegetarian diets and blood pressure. Two-hundred and fifty-eight studies were identified. Seven clinical trials plus 32 observational studies were ultimately included.
The researchers found that according to data in the clinical trials, maintaining a vegetarian diet was linked to both lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. People maintaining vegetarian diets had an average systolic blood pressure that was 4.8 mm Hg lower and a diastolic blood pressure that was about 2.2 mm Hg lower than people who were not on vegetarian diets. Similarly, data from the observation studies found that people maintaining vegetarian diets had an average systolic blood pressure that was 6.9 mm Hg lower and a diastolic blood pressure that was about 4.7 mm Hg lower than people who ate meat.
The authors concluded that eating a vegetarian diet is associated with lower blood pressure. The use of this diet could be an alternative to traditional blood pressure-lowering medications. Additional research is necessary.
Yoko Yokoyama, PhD, MPH; Kunihiro Nishimura, MD, PhD, MPH; Neal D. Barnard, MD; Misa Takegami, RN, PhD, MPH; Makoto Watanabe, MD, PhD; Akira Sekikawa, MD, PhD; Tomonori Okamura, MD, PhD; Yoshihiro Miyamoto, MD, PhD "Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure A Meta-analysis." JAMA Internal Medicine Published online February 24, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14547