Vegetable protein helps in fight
against strokes and heart disease
The Guardian (London) January 10, 2006,11381,1682941,00.html

Subject: Study: Replacing Meat with Vegetables Helps Fight Strokes and Heart Disease

By Sarah Hall, health correspondent

Swapping your meat for two or more vegetables can reduce your blood

pressure. An extensive study shows that a diet rich in vegetables,

pulses and grains tends to produce lower blood pressure than one full

of meat.


The findings could prove significant in the battle against the

leading causes of death - strokes and cardiovascular disease. The

research, led by Professor Paul Elliott of Imperial College, London,

compared the diet and blood pressure of 4,680 men and women, aged 40

to 59, in four countries. Taking each volunteer's blood pressure

eight times, and analysing detailed food diaries, the scientists

found that those who ate more vegetable protein tended to have lower

blood pressure than those who ate less.


Previous research has indicated that vegetarians are less likely to

suffer from hypertension - abnormally high blood pressure - and high

blood pressure than those who eat meat. But scientists had suggested

this was due to vegetarians' lower body weight. The new research,

published yesterday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine,

reveals it is the vegetable protein itself which is of benefit. "It

is certainly true that vegetarians have lower blood pressure than

meat eaters. What was unclear was whether this was due to their

lifestyles or their vegetarianism," Prof Elliott, professor of

epidemiology, said. "These people weren't vegetarians but people just

eating their usual diets. But those consuming relatively more

vegetable protein still had lower blood pressure than those who ate

relatively more protein from meat."


Why vegetable protein affects blood pressure is not yet known, but

the researchers suspect it may be due to amino acids. Some of these

building blocks of protein have been shown to influence blood

pressure, and different amounts were present in diets high in

vegetable protein than in those that contained more animal protein.

Magnesium, found in vegetables, may also interact with amino acids to

lower blood pressure.


The study, conducted in Japan, China, Britain and America, chimes

with recommendations that a diet rich in vegetables, low in salt,

high in potassium and low in alcohol, helps high blood pressure and

related chronic diseases. "We know high blood pressure is the biggest

cause of preventable mortality worldwide," Prof Elliott added. "If we

can stop the rise of blood pressure ... we will reduce the burden of

stroke and heart disease."