Effects of Fiber, and Vegetarian Diet on Hypertension

Role of fiber in management of hypertension:

Dietary fiber (the indigestible plant parts of food) plays an important role in gastrointestinal health of an individual. Several clinical trials have shown that increased fiber intake may lower blood pressure (BP). In one of the metal analysis of clinical trials found that supplementation of moderate amount of fiber (approximately 14 grams a day) reduced BP systolic and diastolic by 1.6 and 2 mm HG respectively. However data is insufficient to recommend high dietary fiber intake (in the form of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in diet) or supplement for lowering BP, alone. However, it can certainly be added along with other proven methods of lowering BP in hypertensive individuals.ID-100202618

Vegetarian or vegan diet for hypertension:

Vegan or vegetarian diet is associated with lower blood pressure. Several studies conducted in Western industrialized countries have consistently shown that vegetarian diet is associated with low BP, in compare to meat eaters. In fact, vegans have lower BP compare to individuals who occasionally consume animal products.

What are the possible causes of lower BP among vegetarians?

Several factors may play role in lowering BP among vegans/vegetarians, including non-dietary factors (such as increased physical activity by vegans). The factors that may possibly the causes of lower BP among vegetarians include lower BMI (lesser obesity), high intake of dietary potassium (which can itself lower BP), low to moderate alcohol intake etc. There may also be many other factors responsible for lower BP among vegans, such as more health awareness among vegans, in compare to general population. Vegans/vegetarians also experience lower age related increase in blood pressure (generally when age increase, without any change in lifestyle or eating habits or any disease/medication, BP tend to increase, which can be considered physiological, hence, normal).

Indian experience also suggest that vegetarian diet is associated with low level of BP, as seen among vegetarians in rural India and Urban India, where large number of people are vegetarians, in fact Indian villages are predominantly vegetarian. Along with lower BP, vegetarians/vegans also suffer less from risk factors associated with high BP, such as cardiovascular risk factors, risk of stroke and many hypertension related risk factors.

Body weight and blood pressure:

Generally, as BMI increases, so does BP. Number of clinical trials have clearly demonstrated that increase in body weight (BMI or body mass index) is directly associated with increase in BP. Several clinical trials have shown that, reducing body weight is associated with lowering of BP and the greater the weight loss, the greater is the lowering of BP, especially among hypertensive population and also among pre-hypertension (systolic BP of 12-139 mm Hg is considered pre-hypertension) stage people. To keep BP under control it is best to keep BMI between 18.5 to 24.9 (ideally BMI should be below 23). Waist circumference should be below 90 cm for and below 80 cm for women, because waist circumference is directly associated with risk of cardiovascular problems. In fact, waist circumference is more important indicator of cardiovascular risk factor than obesity or BMI. Hence, keep waist circumference under control.

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