Blood Pressure and Your Plate: Dietary changes may be simple, drug-free treatment

A new scientific review shows that high blood pressure can be reduced with diet changes, especially a vegetarian diet. The new report analyzes the results of published studies and concludes that vegetarian populations have lower rates of hypertension, “the silent killer.”

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 Susan Berkow, lead author of the study. “My advice to people at risk for hypertension is to substitute a hamburger for a veggie burger 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.”

Randomized clinical trials have shown that blood pressure is lowered when animal products are replaced with vegetable products. Vegetarians have been shown to have a lower incidence of heart disease than non-vegetarians.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Jan 11, 2005