The new report analyses the results of numerous published studies and concludes that vegetarian populations have lower rates of hypertension. This report, authored by nutritionist Susan E. Berkow, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Neal D. Barnard, M.D., is the lead article in the January issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Reviews.
Vegetarians tend to be slimmer, on average, and that is one reason their blood pressure is often in the healthy range. Other mechanisms include vegetarians' higher intake of potassium as well as the tendency of plant-based foods to modulate blood viscosity. As blood pressure is lowered, vegetarian populations experience a reduced risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.
"Many people fear the side effects of blood pressure-lowering drugs, along with the expense. Our analysis of 80 scientific studies suggests that a vegetarian diet may be a simple, drug-free treatment for the 'silent killer'," says Dr Berkow. "My advice to people at risk for hypertension is to substitute a veggie burger for a hamburger tonight and have pasta marinara without the meatballs tomorrow. After about six weeks of such simple changes you might see your blood pressure - and your body weight - begin to drop."
Because high blood pressure is dangerous, the researchers caution that individuals should see their doctors and assess whether diet alone is sufficient, or whether drugs are also needed.
Berkow and Barnard summarised that several randomised clinical trials have shown that blood pressure is lowered when animal products are replaced with vegetable products in both normotensives and hypertensives. The beneficial expected consequences of a reduction in blood pressure include a reduction in major coronary events.
Vegetarians have been shown to have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease and a reduced risk of ischemic heart disease-related death compared to non-vegetarians.
MEDICA.de; Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine