Vegetarian Diets And Blood Pressure, JAMA Internal Medicine, 24 February 2014
This was a meta-analysis, an analysis of several previously-conducted studies. In this case there were 39, consisting of 7 clinical trials and 32 observational studies, including about 22,000 people. Both types of studies found lower blood pressure (BP) in people not eating meat.
Conclusions: Consumption of vegetarian diets is associated with lower BP. Such diets could be a useful nonpharmacologic means for reducing BP.
Here’s the lead author, Dr. Yoko Yokoyama, speaking:
“Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive.”
A bit more from Yokoyama, from Reuters:
Vegetarian Diets May Lower Blood Pressure, Reuters, 24 February 2014
“Unlike drugs, there is no cost to a diet adjustment of this type, and all the ‘side effects’ of a plant-based diet are desirable: weight loss, lower cholesterol, and better blood sugar control.”
“Plant-based foods are often low in sodium and are rich in potassium, and potassium lowers blood pressure.”
The same foods are also very low in saturated fat – the type of fat in meat and cheese – and eating less saturated fat means blood can circulate more easily, she explained.
“I would encourage physicians to prescribe plant-based diets as a matter of routine, and to rely on medications only when diet changes do not do the job,” Yokoyama said.
That reminds me of Kaiser Permanente’s recent endorsement of plant-based diets:
Kaiser Permanente, with 9 million members and $48 billion in operating revenues, is the nation’s largest managed care organization. It recently came out in support of plant-based diets:
Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets (pdf), The Permanente Journal, Spring 2013
Permanente’s Special Report seeks to train physicians and elevate the topic of plant-based nutrition to mainstream. It does so with a case study and a literature review. They conclude that whole food plant-based diets should be “a first-line treatment for chronic illnesses.”
Kaiser actually said the following. Can you believe it?
“Too often, physicians ignore the potential benefits of good nutrition and quickly prescribe medications instead of giving patients a chance to correct their disease through healthy eating and active living. If we are to slow down the obesity epidemic and reduce the complications of chronic disease, we must consider changing our culture’s mind-set from “live to eat” to “eat to live.” The future of health care will involve an evolution toward a paradigm where the prevention and treatment of disease is centered, not on a pill or surgical procedure, but on another serving of fruits and vegetables.”