Benefit for tofu growers: Vegetable protein has a positive effect on blood pressure. Small consolation for steak lovers: animal protein obviously does not hurt at least.
Vegetarians usually have better blood pressure than lovers of Schnitzel & Co. The reasons for it were so far unclear. Does flesh drive up blood pressure – or do vegetables keep it in check? Paul Elliott of Imperial College London and his colleagues are on the trail of the causes. They evaluated the data of around 4,700 men and women aged between 40 and 59 from four countries.
Nutritional notes and blood pressure check
In four sessions each, physicians had measured twice the blood pressure of the study participants as part of the so-called Intermap study. In addition, the researchers noted what the subjects had eaten and drunk during the previous 24 hours. The researchers also evaluated urine samples taken by the volunteers in the first and third sessions.
The result: Participants who had eaten more vegetable protein – for example in the form of legumes, soy products or cabbage – showed on average significantly lower blood pressure than the other subjects. Conversely, high consumption of animal protein did not have the feared negative effect: A juicy steak does not push up blood pressure.
Amino acids in the sights
So far, Paul Elliott and his team have not been able to find out which part of the protein-rich plant diet is beneficial to blood pressure. However, the researchers found evidence that certain amino acids that make up proteins play a key role in this process. The effect may be enhanced by plant trace elements such as magnesium, the researchers said.
“Our findings support the current nutritional recommendations that recommend a high-vegetable diet,” write the study authors. However, more research is needed to decipher the exact mechanisms in which plant protein affects blood pressure. The research results appear in the current issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.