Switching to a vegetarian diet could help those with high blood pressure to keep levels low, researchers have suggested, with a diet full of fruit and veg leading to a drop in blood pressure similar to that caused by losing nearly a stone in weight.
According to Japanese scientists at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, chowing down on all those healthy veggies achieves around half the drop in levels provided by prescription drugs, and the researchers believe it is thanks to the low levels of fat and greater antioxidant effects of a vegetarian diet.
Blood pressure is measured by two readings - systolic pressure, when the heart is forcing blood through the arteries, and diastolic, when the heart is relaxed.
Readings given in millimetres of mercury, or mmHg, determine whether the pressure if high or low. And having analysed seven clinical trials from 32 studies, those tucking into a vegetarian diet were found to have systolic blood pressure almost 5mmHg lower than those eating meat and fish.
The report, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, also revealed that diastolic blood pressure was lower in vegetarians with a difference of between 2.2mmHg and 5mmHg compared to meat-eaters.
However, Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, suggested people should be still be careful of what they're eating should they decide to cut out meat.
"Simply removing meat from the diet isn't a fast track to heart health," she told the Daily Mail. "Many foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar will be vegetarian options too.
"Whether you eat meat or not, getting plenty of fruit and vegetables, eating less salt, maintaining a health weight and, if you drink alcohol, keeping within government recommendations are all important as part of the healthy and active lifestyle that will help to keep your blood pressure down."
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