Researchers at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka analysed blood pressure statistics from seven clinical trials, and found that diastolic and systolic blood pressure measurements both tended to be lower in vegetarians.
The research found that simply cutting out meat can bring approximately 50% of the benefit expected from prescription drugs. The effect is similar to the positive impact associated with losing three-quarters of a stone (5 kg) in weight.
They have suggested that this is because a vegetarian diet is relatively low in fat and salt. The antioxidant effect of fruit and vegetables may also have a part to play.
The research team looked at blood pressure readings from nearly 22,000 vegetarians and noted that every study showed that people eating a vegetarian diet were less likely to have high blood pressure than those eating meat.
The researchers pointed out that encouraging people to go vegetarian is a cost-effective way to treat high blood pressure. “Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive”, said Dr Yoko Yokoyama, who led the research team. “If a diet change can prevent blood pressure problems or can reduce blood pressure, it would give hope to many people.”
The report, published by JAMA Internal Medicine, is available here.