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Gibbs J, Gaskina E, Jia C, et al. The effect of plant-based dietary patterns on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled intervention trials J Hypertens. 2021;39:23-37.
Do plant-based diets reduce blood pressure in adults?
Globally, over one billion people live with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), a condition that results in nine million deaths every year and contributes to the development of heart disease and stroke. Past meta-analyses have shown that vegan and vegetarian diets may help reduce blood pressure, although positive results for vegan diets were only seen in individuals with a baseline systolic blood pressure of ≥130 mm Hg, which is higher than normal. More research on the effects of plant-based diets on blood pressure—beyond just vegan and vegetarian diets—has since been released. This includes evidence on diets that allow for the consumption of a limited amount of animal products. As a result, a comprehensive systematic review that examines the inclusion and exclusion of animal products in a diet is needed.
This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of 41 studies, the vast majority of which were randomized controlled trials. The studies were published between 1983 and 2019 and included a total of 8416 participants. Key features of the studies:
Overall, the review found that plant-based diets can help reduce blood pressure in adults. However, the results varied by diet and outcome (e.g., systolic vs. diastolic). The certainty of the evidence ranged from very low to high. The lower the certainty, the less confidence there is in the results, and the higher the likelihood that future research will have different findings.
The following diets reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure:
The following diet reduced systolic blood pressure only:
The following diets did not reduce either systolic or diastolic blood pressure:
These findings imply that diets that allow a limited amount of animal products can be successful in reducing blood pressure; and that the complete removal of animal products from a diet may not be necessary.
Plant-based diets, specifically those that allow some animal products, such as the healthy Nordic, DASH lacto-ovo vegetarian, and Mediterranean diets, can be beneficial in reducing certain aspects of blood pressure in adults.