Dietary fiber plays a critical role in managing high blood pressure

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An international study led by scientists from Monash University has placed a spotlight on the significant yet often overlooked role of dietary fiber in managing high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Published in Hypertension, this comprehensive review advocates for the inclusion of dietary fiber in clinical guidelines for hypertension management, underlining its potential to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

High blood pressure is a pressing global health issue, linked to 19% of deaths worldwide.

Despite the established benefits of lifestyle changes in hypertension treatment, dietary recommendations have frequently omitted specific guidance on fiber intake.

Associate Professor Francine Marques from the Monash University School of Biological Sciences, the lead author of the study, emphasizes that dietary fiber is a critical, yet underappreciated component of effective hypertension management.

The review meticulously analyzed various studies and presented compelling evidence that a higher intake of dietary fiber significantly reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

For every additional 5 grams of fiber consumed daily, the systolic blood pressure could decrease by about 2.8 mmHg, and diastolic pressure by approximately 2.1 mmHg, independent of other medical interventions.

Moreover, the benefits of dietary fiber extend beyond direct blood pressure reduction. Fiber plays a crucial role in promoting heart health by modifying gut microbiota and enhancing the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

These acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and their ability to regulate immune function, which in turn helps in lowering blood pressure.

However, despite these benefits, global fiber intake is alarmingly low, with averages around 11 grams per day—far below the levels needed to impact blood pressure effectively.

The review suggests that optimal fiber intake should be over 28 grams per day for women and over 38 grams per day for men to manage hypertension efficiently.

Associate Professor Marques and her team provided evidence-based recommendations for increasing dietary fiber intake, which include prioritizing fiber-rich foods. This guidance aims to assist healthcare providers and patients in making informed dietary choices to combat hypertension.

The review’s findings have significant implications for public health and future hypertension management guidelines.

By recognizing the critical role of dietary fiber, healthcare professionals can take proactive steps to promote cardiovascular health and reduce the burden of hypertension.

As the study concludes, incorporating dietary fiber into hypertension treatment plans and encouraging patients to increase their fiber intake can lead to substantial improvements in cardiovascular outcomes, potentially transforming the approach to treating and managing this prevalent condition.

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The research findings can be found in Hypertension.

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