Vegetarianism and blood pressure

A plant-based diet may lower blood pressure, according to a study published Feb. 24, 2014 in a major medical journal. Should we really stop eating meat before starting treatment?

“Let me be clear on this. The low-carbohydrate diet is a quackery,” said Dr. Neil Barnard, “It is popular, but it is unscientific, it is a mistake, it is a fad. At some point, we have to step aside and look at the evidence.”

Note: Do not ask Dr. Neil Barnard about restricting carbohydrate intake.

“You look at the people around the world who are the leanest, healthiest and live longest, they don’t follow anything that even remotely resembles a low-carb diet,” he said. “Look at Japan. The Japanese are the longest living people. What are the dietary preferences in Japan? They eat huge amounts of rice. We’ve looked at every published study, and it’s really, undeniably true.”

Given that Barnard is the author of 15 books extolling the life-extending virtues of plant-based nutrition, his words come as no surprise. Barnard and colleagues published a meta-analysis in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association that confirmed the huge health promise of a vegetarian diet: it significantly lowers blood pressure.

High blood pressure shortens lives and contributes to heart disease, kidney failure and many other health problems that should be prevented. We have known for years that vegetarianism and low blood pressure are somehow related, but the reasons for this were not clear.

People who follow a vegetarian diet have significantly lower blood pressure. The effect is about half the strength of the respective drugs.

In recent years, a number of studies on the dependence of blood pressure on a vegetarian diet have been conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the most famous in the United States. It turned out that people who prefer a vegetarian diet have markedly lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians. Ultimately, the researchers recommended enriching the diet with a high content of fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans, although they did not say about the need to become vegetarians.

“What’s new in what we were able to get? Really good average pressure drop,” said Barnard. “Meta-analysis is the best kind of scientific research. Instead of just doing one study, we have summed up every study on the subject that has been published.

In addition to the seven control trials (where you ask people to change their diet and compare their performance to that of a control group of omnivores), 32 different studies have been summarized. The reduction in blood pressure when switching to a vegetarian diet is quite significant.

It is not uncommon for us to see patients in our research center who come and take four drugs to lower their blood pressure, but it continues to be too high. So if a change in diet can effectively lower blood pressure, or better yet, can prevent blood pressure problems, that’s great because it costs nothing and all the side effects are welcome – weight loss and lower cholesterol! And it’s all thanks to the vegan diet.

Eating meat raises blood pressure. If a person eats meat, it increases his chances of getting health problems.”

The Committee for Responsible Medicine Research Group published another academic paper in February 2014, which found that a meat-based diet increases the risk of developing two types of diabetes and should be considered a risk factor.

People who eat cheese and eggs in addition to plants tend to be slightly heavier, although they are always leaner than meat eaters. A semi-vegetarian diet does help some. Weight gain is another matter. We are interested in why vegetarians have lower blood pressure? “Many people will say it’s because a plant-based diet is rich in potassium,” Barnard said. “It’s really important for lowering blood pressure. However, I think there is a more important factor: the viscosity of your blood.”

Saturated fat intake has been found to be associated with more viscous blood and a risk of high blood pressure, according to the World Health Organization, compared with polyunsaturated fat intake.

Bernard colorfully described cooking bacon in a pan that cools and hardens into a waxy solid. “Animal fat in the blood produces the same effect,” he says. “If you eat animal fat, your blood actually gets thicker and harder to circulate. So the heart has to work harder to get the blood flowing. If you don’t eat meat, your blood viscosity and your blood pressure will drop. We believe this is the main reason.”

The fastest animals, such as horses, do not eat meat or cheese, so their blood is thin. Their blood flows well. As you know, many of the world’s most enduring athletes are also vegan. Scott Yurek is the most amazing super distance runner in the world. Jurek says plant-based eating is the only diet he has ever followed.

Serena Williams is a vegan too – for years. She was asked where she gets protein for muscle recovery. She replied: “In the same place where a horse or a bull, an elephant or a giraffe, a gorilla or any other herbivore gets it. The most powerful animals eat plant foods. If you are human, you can eat grains, beans, and even green leafy vegetables. Broccoli gives me about one-third of the protein I need.”

Veganism, by the way, is not the only way to lower blood pressure. Dairy products and the Mediterranean diet are also effective for hypertension.


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