High blood pressure: Study suggests eating a variety of protein may lower risk

Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure

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The NHS notes high blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. It says if left untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Indeed, around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it.

A recent study published in the Hypertension Journal aimed to investigate associations between the variety and quantity of proteins intake from eight major food sources and new-onset hypertension.

The researchers looked at 12,177 participants from the China Health and Nutrition Survey.

Participants were scored based on how many protein sources were consumed of eight categories.

These protein sources included whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes.

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More than 35 percent of the participants developed new-onset high hypertension during follow-up. Average time to follow-up was six years.

“In summary, there was an inverse association between the variety of proteins with appropriate quantity from different food sources and new-onset hypertension,” it states.

Compared to participants with the lowest variety score for protein intake, less than two, those with the highest variety score, four or higher, had a 66 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

This research may suggest that people should focus on consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein.

The NHS says: “Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.

“This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.”

It says: “Most people in the UK eat and drink too many calories, too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish or fibre.”

The health body says meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc and B vitamins. It’s also one of the main sources of vitamin B12.

The NHS adds: “Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry whenever possible to cut down on fat. Always cook meat thoroughly. Try to eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages.

“Eggs and fish are also good sources of protein, and contain many vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish.”

The NHS adds: “Pulses, including beans, peas and lentils, are naturally very low in fat and high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.

“Nuts are high in fibre, and unsalted nuts make a good snack. But they do still contain high levels of fat, so eat them in moderation.”

The NHS says blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure, higher number, is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure, lower number, is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

As a general guide:

  • High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)
  • Ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg

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