High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease. But according to the latest research findings in Japan, this doesn’t seem to be a problem for vegetarians, who have lower blood pressure than those who have a largely omnivorous diet. Then, is vegetarian diet good for preventing high blood pressure?
The Osaka research findings that are published in JAMA Internal Medicine have a meta-analysis based on the millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) of the participants who are divided into vegetarians and omnivores. The study found that vegetarians have lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than omnivores in both clinical trials and observational studies. This reduction is consistent with that of a 11lb weight loss or a low sodium diet. Even a 5 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure can shave 14% off your risk of dying from stroke and 9% off your risk of dying from coronary heart disease.
But the researchers also consider several other factors that may contribute to the reduced blood pressure among vegetarians. They tend to have lower BMIs than omnivores, mainly because vegetables are more fibrous and less fatty than meat and the other components of an omnivorous diet. The lower body weight is often associated with lower blood pressure, although other studies have proven that vegetarians still have lower blood pressure regardless of their weight.
Vegetarian diets are also rich in potassium but low in sodium, although there are opposing results from studies as to the effect of this finding on blood pressure. They also contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids but lower saturated fatty acids than omnivorous diets.
Another factor among vegetarians that may have helped lower their blood pressure is their tendency not to consume too much alcohol, which can affect blood pressure. However, this Japanese study did not really look that much into the effect of alcohol intake. Lower blood viscosity is also found among vegetarians.
The study did not consider many other factors that could affect blood pressure, such as lifestyle, exercise habits, and the differences in the vegetarian diet components based on the country and the individual, among others. This led the researchers to conclude that it would take more studies for a strong relationship between the vegetarian diet and blood pressure to be established. Still, it can’t be denied that being vegetarian does help in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.