Health Studies

Vegetarian Diets May Lower Blood Pressure

Researchers in Japan and the United States reviewed data from over 21,000 people to investigate the association between vegetarian diets and blood pressure. After analyzing 32 observational studies and 7 controlled trials published between 1900 and 2013, the scientists found that eating a vegetarian diet is associated with a significant reduction in both systolic (4.8-6.9 mm Hg decrease) and diastolic (2.2-4.7 mm Hg decrease) blood pressure compared with diets that include meat.
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014 April; 174(4):577-587 (Yokoyama Y et al.)

Vegetarians, Vegans and Blood Pressure

The goal of this study was to examine the relationship between vegetarian diet and blood pressure in Seventh-day Adventists.  Through food questions administered at clinic in churches across the USA and Canada, researchers from Loma Linda University studied data on 500 white Adventists, including vegasn, lacto-ovo vegetarians, partial vegetarians, and omnivores  The study found that vegetarians, and especially vegans, have lower systolic and diastolic BP and less hypertension than omnivores and that this difference is only partly due to their lower body mass.
Public Health Nutrition. October 2011; 15(10):1909-1916 [Pettersen B et al.]

Med Diet More Effective Than Low-Fat Diet

Researchers at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland systematically identified randomized controlled trials comparing Mediterranean to low-fat diets for overweight or obese subjects. Only those studies with a minimum follow-up of six month, and that included data on cardiovascular risk factors were included. The researchers concluded that, in the six studies examined, people assigned to the Med Diet group showed more weight loss, lower BMI, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, reduced cholesterol, and lower C-reactive protein than those following a low-fat diet in these interventions.

The American Journal of Medicine. September 2011; 124(9):841-851 e2

Seaweed Beneficial to Children's Blood Pressure

459 Japanese pre-schoolers were studied by researchers from Gifu University in Japan. They found that the boys with the highest seaweed intake had significantly lower diastolic blood pressure readings, while the girls with the highest seaweed intake had significantly lower systolic blood pressure.
Nutrition Journal. August 10, 2011; 10:83 (Wada et al.)

Cardiac Rehab Program: Med Diet Treats Metabolic Syndrome

People with any three of five common symptoms – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides – are said to have Metabolic Syndrome, a condition associated with many health risks, including diabetes and heart disease. Because Metabolic Syndrome usually leads to serious disease, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School set out to design a lifestyle program to combat Metabolic Syndrome. 126 obese over-50 adults with Metabolic Syndrome followed a program consisting of 12 weekly ninety-minute sessions, evenly divided between exercise and nutrition education focusing on the Mediterranean Diet. At the end of the program, patients had lost on average 6.2kg (13.6 lbs), with significant reductions in waist circumference, body fat, blood pressure, triglycerides, and depression. About 20% of those finishing the program no longer had Metabolic Syndrome, and 42% had lost at least one symptom, thanks to the Med Diet and exercise.

Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, July 4, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Metabolic Syndrome Factors Improve with Med Diet

In a 12-week randomized trial, 89 women with Metabolic Syndrome were divided into two groups, one consuming a Mediterranean-style low-glycemic-load diet and the other receiving the same diet with the addition of a “medical food” containing phytosterols, soy protein, hops and acacia. At the end of the trial, researchers at the University of Connecticut noted that both groups had similar decreases in waist circumference, blood pressure and plasma triglycerides. Cholesterol levels also improved in both groups, though slightly more in the Med Diet + medical food group.

Journal of Clinical Lipidology, May-June 2011; 5(3):188-96. Epub 2011 Mar 11.

Patterns of High Blood Pressure and High Sodium Intake in the African Diaspora

High sodium intake is associated with higher blood pressure. This study, from Loyola University in Chicago, examined 2,704 individuals from Nigeria, Jamaica, and the United States, with evaluated blood pressure and sodium levels. The individuals’ ages ranged from 31-48 and 55% were women. Sodium levels decreased from West to East: highest in the U.S., mid-range in Jamaica, and lowest in Nigeria where we find little added sodium in the foods. High blood pressure follows the same pattern: highest in the U.S., mid-range in Jamaica, and lowest in Nigeria. The standard American diet, containing foods higher in sodium, is associated with a higher risk of abnormal blood pressure than traditional diets. 

Journal of Human Hypertension, 2011 May 19. (Tayo et al.)

Med Diet Reduces Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

To assess the Mediterranean Diet’s effect on metabolic syndrome, scientists in Greece and Italy conducted a meta-analysis of 50 peer-reviewed Med Diet studies (including 35 clinical trials) involving more than half a million people. Metabolic Syndrome is considered to be present if someone has three or more of the following: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides. The researchers found that the Med Diet improved all five risk factors, and overall reduced the risk of Metabolic Syndrome. They concluded that “this dietary pattern can be easily adopted by all population groups and various cultures, and cost-effectively serve for primary and secondary prevention of Metabolic Syndrome and its individual components.”

Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 15 March 2011; 57:1299-1313.

Health Benefits of Traditional Latino Diets

Brazilian scientists carried out a comprehensive review of historic diets native to different parts of Central and South America, and of recent research that sheds light on their protective effects. Benefits of traditional, largely plant-based Latino diets included lower cholesterol, lower diabetes risk, lower blood pressure, and other benefits.
Clinics, 2010; 65(1):1049-54 (Navarro et al.)

Obesity and Chronic Disease Rates in Botswana Hospital Workers

In this study, a group of hospital workers underwent physical examinations to measure weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which are high when a person has metabolic syndrome. The workers were divided into age and gender groups. The youngest group (ages 35-54 years) was the most affected by metabolic syndrome, whereas the elderly -- who are expected to have the greater risk of hypertension and abnormal cholesterol -- were the least affected by these diseases. One reason for this finding is that the population of Botswana is changing from its traditional lifestyle to more modern, less healthy habits, and younger people are more likely to adopt these changes. In contrast, older people, who are less inclined to change their habits, reflected a higher state of health.

South African Medical Journal, May 2009, Vol. 99, No. 5. (Garrido et al.)

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