Do Vegetarians Control Their Blood Pressure Better?

An impressive number of studies, dating back to the early 1920s, show that vegetarians have lower blood pressure than nonvegetarians. In fact, some studies have shown that adding meat to a vegetarian diet raises blood pressure levels rapidly and significantly. The effects of a vegetarian diet occur in addition to the benefits of reducing the sodium content of the diet. When patients with high blood pressure begin a vegetarian diet, many are able to eliminate the need for medication.

Do Vegetarians Control Their Blood Pressure Better?

The best way to control blood pressure has been subject to much debate. You get different answers depending on who you ask. Many have maintained that after becoming vegetarians, they successfully lowered their blood pressure and no longer needed drugs. The problem is always that we use the word “control” as opposed to “cure”. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be one even one method that promises a cure. This article contains excerpts of a detailed discussion of the issue. The author shows that although being a vegetarian will in fact be a good method to lower blood pressure, but he also believes that keeping such a diet may be harmful. Read Dr.Mercola’s  comments below.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure is “the second greatest public health threat” in the US, and about half of all with hypertension have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

This increases your risk for a number of more serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Interestingly, 16 million Americans who are on blood pressure medication still don’t have their blood pressure under control—a fact that emphasizes the need for basic lifestyle changes in order to truly resolve this problem.

Blood pressure medications are very effective at lowering blood pressure, but they do NOT address or rectify the underlying cause of your hypertension.

Research  published in 2013 found that vegetarians were 32 percent less likely to develop ischemic heart disease, and many other studies have demonstrated that vegetarians enjoy better health and longer lives than non-vegetarians. Certainly, eating more vegetables is bound to have a beneficial effect. Most people eat far too few of them.  So it makes perfect sense that individuals who consume more vegetables are likely to be healthier.

Most Americans eat far too much protein and not enough vegetables, which likely accounts for most of the difference seen when comparing vegetarian to non-vegetarian diets. But that does not justify excluding all animal products.

The other part of the equation that is rarely addressed is the amount of protein consumed. When it comes to meat, two key factors that will determine the healthfulness of your diet are the quality of the meat and the amount.

In terms of quality, meat from pastured or grass-fed and finished animals is FAR superior to that from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). CAFO beef and poultry has many disadvantages, including fewer of the most valuable nutrients found in organically-raised meats, while being contaminated with hormones, antibiotics, beta-agonist drugs, and pesticides.

Nutrition experts like Dr. Ron Rosedale believe most adults need about one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight per day. As an example, if your body fat mass is 20 percent, your lean mass is 80 percent of your total body weight.

So if your total weight is 200 pounds, you would then divide 160 by 2.2 to convert pounds to kilograms and come up with 72.7 grams of protein. If you are doing vigorous exercises or are pregnant, you can add up to another 25 percent or another 18 grams in this illustration to increase your total to 90 grams per day. This would be on the high side. Most women need half of this amount because they have far less lean body mass.

Most meat-eaters tend to consumer far more than that, especially in the US. In fact, the typical American diet is extremely meat-heavy, having risen dramatically over the past century. Previous research has suggested the average American consumes about 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of total body mass (lean mass plus fat). This is nearly double the ideal of one gram/kg of lean body mass. Some groups even consume 500 percent more protein than this.  And the vast majority of all the meat consumed is CAFO, which only adds to the problem, for the reasons mentioned above.

There are a number of reasons why I believe it’s best to limit your protein intake. The first is that if you eat large amounts of protein your body doesn’t need, it will convert most of those calories to sugar. Additionally, it will need to remove the nitrogen waste products from your blood, which stresses your kidneys.

Excessive protein can also have a stimulatory effect on mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)—a pathway that seems to be largely responsible for the pathology seen in cancer growth. When you reduce protein to just what your body needs, mTOR remains inhibited, which helps minimize your chances of cancer growth.

Abstaining from animal protein altogether however, can lead to other health complications. For example, a strict vegetarian or vegan diet can lead to vitamin B12 and sulfur amino acid deficiency, both of which increases your risk of heart disease. Vegans or strict vegetarians who abstain from animal products and do not supplement their diet with vitamin B12 will typically become anemic. Nervous and digestive system damage can also result. Claims that B12 is present in certain algae, tempeh, and brewer’s yeast fail to take into account that the B12 analogues present in these foods are not bioavailable. The only reliable and absorbable sources of vitamin B12 are animal products, especially pastured eggs.

Research published in the journal Nutrition, two years ago, shows that people who eat a strictly plant-based diet may suffer from subclinical protein malnutrition, which means you’re also likely not getting enough dietary sulfur. Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed/pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered “complete” as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein.

Those who abstain from animal protein are placing themselves at far greater risk of sulfur deficiency and its related health problems. Sulfur also plays a vital role in the structure and biological activity of both proteins and enzymes. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of sulfur in your body, this deficiency can cascade into a number of health problems as it will affect bones, joints, connective tissues, metabolic processes, and more. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior scientist at MIT, areas where sulfur plays an important role include:

  • Your body’s electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells
  • Vitamin-B thiamine (B1) and biotin conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy
  • Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione
  • Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity
  • Detoxification

Last but not least, let me note that cutting out meat, or animal protein, from your diet is NOT the only way to normalize your blood pressure. There are many other lifestyle strategies that can lower high blood pressure that does not involve abstaining from an important nutrient source. In fact, insulin resistance is a primary promoter of high blood pressure, and the dietary underpinning that creates insulin resistance is a diet too high in sugar, not protein.

Article Summary

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) increases your risk for a number of more serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke
  • A recent meta-analysis found that removing meat from the diet led to blood pressure reductions similar to losing five kilos of body weight
  • Compared to blood pressure drugs, a vegetarian diet was found to be about 50 percent as effective for lowering blood pressure
  • Cutting out meat from your diet is NOT the only way to normalize your blood pressure. In fact, insulin resistance is a primary promoter of high blood pressure, which is the result of a diet too high in sugar, not protein
  • When it comes to meat, two key factors that will determine the healthfulness of your diet are the quality of the meat, and the amount. Most people need to reduce their portions, and limit meat to organic grass-fed, pastured meats only

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