Eating protein from a wide variety of sources, and not just from meat, may be the key to keeping your blood pressure down, research has found.
High blood pressure – or hypertension – could almost be considered the top national health problem. Around one in three Australians over 18 has elevated blood pressure and the condition is a leading cause of heart failure, stroke and other chronic conditions.
But hypertension is also one of the most controllable risk factors for these conditions. It’s long been known that diet plays a big role in blood pressure. Foods that are low in sodium, fresh fruit and vegetables and, yes, even lean meat, have been proven to help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Now, research published in the journal Hypertension has found that getting your protein from a wide variety of sources – and not just from meat – plays a crucial role in combatting high blood pressure.
The study analysed the health information of 12,200 adults, with an average age of 41, who had taken part in the China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1997 to 2015.
Part of the survey involved participants listing what they had eaten over a three-day period. The researchers then gave each protein source a “variety score” between one and eight.
Protein sources included processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, whole grains and refined grains. The researchers then evaluated the association for new onset hypertension in relation to the protein variety score.
During the follow-up period, more than 35 per cent of participants reported new cases of hypertension.
The researchers found those with higher variety scores (four or above) had a 66 per cent lower risk of developing hypertension than those with lower scores.
The data also showed those who ate very little protein at all were also at an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure.
“People who ate the least amount of total protein and those who ate most protein had the highest risk for new onset of hypertension,” the paper says.
So protein is important for controlling hypertension, but sourcing all your protein from the same food will also raise your risk.
“Nutrition may be an easily accessible and effective measure to fight against hypertension. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is one of the three basic macronutrients,” says Dr Xianhui Qin, lead author of the study.
“The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure.”
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