»Focus online«, 11/01/06

Vegetable protein stabilises blood pressure

Vegetable protein stabilises blood pressure

Tofu fans know that vegetable protein has a positive effect on blood pressure. There is also a small comfort for steak-lovers: animal protein evidently does no harm.

Vegetarians generally have better blood pressure than meat-lovers. However, the reasons for this were previously unclear. Does meat push up the blood pressure – or do vegetables keep it in check? Paul Elliott and his colleagues from Imperial College London are trying to find out more about the reasons for this. They evaluated data from around 4700 men and women from four countries, aged between 40 and 59.

Dietary details and blood pressure check

As part of the INTERMAP study, the researchers measured the blood pressure of the test subjects twice during a total of four sessions. They also asked what the subjects had had to eat and drink in the previous 24 hours. The scientists additionally evaluated urine samples given by the volunteers in the first and third sessions.

The results: participants who had eaten more vegetable protein – for example, pulses, soy products or cabbage – had, on average, a significantly lower blood pressure than the other subjects. Conversely, a high consumption of animal protein did not have the expected negative effect: a juicy steak does not push up blood pressure.

Focusing on amino acids

Paul Elliott and his team have not yet been able to work out which component in a protein-rich vegetable-based diet has a favourable effect on blood pressure. However, the researchers did find evidence that a key role is played by certain amino acids, the basic building blocks of proteins. It is possible that the effect could be additionally boosted by plant-derived trace elements such as magnesium.

“Our results corroborate current dietary recommendations that encourage a vegetable-rich diet«, wrote the authors of the study. However, further studies are necessary to elucidate the exact mechanisms as to how vegetable protein affects blood pressure. The research results were recently published in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine.”

(Reference: Arch Intern Med (2006); 166: 79-87 Abstract http://archinte.ama-assn.org)

Dear reader,

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