This diet can lower blood pressure even with limited meat and dairy

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In a new study, researchers found that consuming a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure even if small amounts of meat and dairy are consumed too.

They argue that any effort to increase plant-based foods in the diet and limit animal products is likely to benefit blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular disease.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of Warwick.

High blood pressure is the leading risk factor globally for heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases.

A reduction in blood pressure has important health benefits both for individuals and for populations.

Unhealthy diets are responsible for more deaths and disabilities globally than tobacco use, high alcohol intake, drug use and unsafe sex put together.

Increased consumption of whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fruit, as achieved in plant-based diets, could avert up to 1.7, 1.8, 2.5 and 4.9 million deaths globally respectively every year, according to previous research.

Vegetarian and vegan diets with the complete absence of animal products are already known to lower blood pressure compared to omnivorous diets. Their feasibility and sustainability are, however, limited.

Until now, it has not been known whether a complete absence of animal products is necessary in plant-based dietary patterns to achieve a significant beneficial effect on blood pressure.

In the study, the team did a systematic review to compare seven plant-based diets (including DASH, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Vegan, Nordic, high fibre and high fruit and vegetables) and the impact that these had on blood pressure.

Plant-based diets support high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, limiting the consumption of most or all animal products (mainly meat and dairy).

The team showed that most of these diets lowered blood pressure.

The DASH diet had the largest effect reducing blood pressure by 5.53/3.79 mmHg compared to a control diet, and by 8.74/6.05 mmHg when compared to a ‘usual’ diet.

A blood pressure reduction of the scale caused by higher consumption of plant-based diets, even with limited animal products would result in a 14% reduction in strokes, a 9% reduction in heart attacks, and a 7% reduction in overall mortality.

The team says the adoption of plant-based dietary patterns would also play a role in global food sustainability and security.

They would contribute to a reduction in land use due to human activities, to global water conservation, and to a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emission.

One author of the study is Joshua Gibbs, a student at the University of Warwick School of Life Sciences.

The study is published in the Journal of Hypertension.

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