Discussion of Diet, Nutrients & High Blood Pressure

Diet   Supplement Options   Other Nutrients   Botanical   Overview

Dietary Modification

Salt

In the West, consuming of salt is solidly tied to high blood pressure, or hypertension.2 Although so-called "primitive" societies have very little salt in their diet and very little hypertension,1 it may well be that the general more relaxed pace of their life and their diets that are free from additives is also a factor. Nonetheless. removing salt from ones daily meals reduces blood pressure for most patients.3 The more the condiment is removed the greater the reduction in blood pressure. 4 The effects of removing salt from the diet vary according to individual physiologies, but small to medium reductions lead to few changes in blood pressure. This is especially true in the young and in people who do not suffer from high blood pressure. In other words, if blood pressure is fairly normal, changing salt consumption has little effect. However, markedly removing salt from the diet generally has a beneficial effect for hypertention patients.

Furthermore processed and fast food, and often food in restaurants as well, contains high levels of salt so that not adding salt simply isn't sufficient to make a noticeable change. There is no proof that restricting salt has dangerous side-effects5 but there have been a few reports of short-term surprising increases in blood pressure.6 For that reason, if you decide to attempt to completely eliminate salt from your diet, you should check with your medical professional.

Vegetables

Research has demonstrated that people on a vegetarian diet tend to have lower blood pressure than meat-eaters.7 Why? It's partially due to the potassium content of fruits and vegetables8 (which is greater than that in many supplements). Potassium reduces blood pressure. Rather than adding potassium as a supplement, the better method to supplement with potassium is to increase your fruit consumption. In fact, fruit contains enough potassium that if you are taking "potassium-sparing" diuretics, you run the risk of the intake of too much potassium by consuming several fruits daily. If you are taking such diuretics you should consult with your medical professional.

Eating fruit is the best way to supplement with potassium, although people taking diuretics that spare potassium should check with their doctor first since they can consume too much by merely eating several pieces of fruit daily.

One well-known investigation into reducing high blood pressure through diet was the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial. DASH found that adding more fruits and vegetables (with their fiber) and lowering foods with high levels of cholesterol and fat from dairy sources resulted in marked blood pressure reductions in only 8 weeks. In medical language, this was a reduction by 5.5/diastolic and 11.4/systolic.9 Although this was not a vegetarian diet, it was similar to the diet enjoyed by vegetarians and the result demonstrated its effectiveness. It also demonstrated that diet, by itself, can markedly reduce blood pressure. The results were most significant in African American patients. Furthermore, the results demonstrated that this diet did not require weight loss or salt restriction.10 Even so, using both the DASH diet and lowering salt from the diet lowers blood pressure more effectively than diet alone.11

Sugar

Research has documented that sugar consumption raises blood pressure in both animals12 and people over the short term.13 Some health professionals therefore recommend that those with hypertension cut back on their sugar consumption. Note: even if reduction of sugar did not of itself reduce blood pressure, losing weight would be helpful.

Caffeine

Thre is a brief increase in blood pressure immediately following caffinated coffee or tea consumption. 15 16 In studies of at least 2 months duration, caffinated coffee drinking resulted in small blood pressure increases. 17 The long-term effects vary. For some people it seems to raise their blood pressure, for others it does not, and a few studies even suggest that it lowers it over the long term.18 It appears that it really depends on the rest of the physiology, lifestyle, and diet. Nonetheless, many health providers recommend avoiding caffeine.

Fiber

Double-blind research has provided contradictory results as to whether adding fiber to the diet for several months lowers blood pressure.19-23

Nutritional Supplement Treatment Options

CoQ10

Research assessing the value of supplementing with CoQ10 in 109 hypertension patients found marked reduction in blood pressure.35-39 In eight other studies the mean systolic decrease was 16 and the mean diastolic decrease was 10.111 Dosage typically is 100mg/daily for a minimum of ten weeks.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish oil, containing omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, has been found to markedly lower blood pressure (evaluation of 31 different studies).40 However, the results depending on very high levels of fish oil - 50 grams/daily which included 15 grams of EPA and DHA. Smaller consumption did not yield as significant results, but some trials which used more than 3 grams/daily reported excellent results. Furthermore, one double-blind study found that DHA had a more profound effect than fish oil or EPA alone.41

Other Nutrients

  • Potassium A meta-analysis of 33 studies found that potassium in supplement form (2,400mg/daily) lowered blood pressure. 42 Amounts greater than 100mg/tablet require a prescription, and the non-prescription lower dose tablelets can bring about stomach irritation. Additionally, those who are on potassium-sparing diuretics, should supplement with potassium. For that reason, you should only take potassium for this purpose under your medical provider's supervision.
  • Magnesium Research regarding the effectiveness of magnesium supplementation, generally 350-500mg/daily yielded mixed results. 43,44 This supplement seems to be effective for people are are prescribed with diuretics that deplete.45 These diuretics also remove magnesium and the reduced blood pressure may be due to reversing a slight magnesium deficiency.
  • Calcium Supplementing with calcium reduces blood pressure to a degree that is small but statistically significant. A meta-analyis of 42 studies might have found greater changes had all of the patients been hypertensive. Supplementing with calcium has little effect on healthy people's blood pressure.46
  • Vitamin C Research has reported that vitamin C reduces blood pressure, but in not all studies was the reduction statistically significant. 47 48 Some medical professionals suggest 1000mg/daily for hypertension patients.
  • Taurine Taurine deficiency might play a role in high blood pressure49 Animal research50 and human trials (6 grams/daily) reported results51 perhaps by lowering adrenaline levels.
  • Arginine Arginine is an animo acid that the body uses to create nitric oxide which allows blood vessel dilation and lower blood pressure. Giving arginine intraveneously lowered blood pressure in one report.52 One study found that combining conventional prescriptions with oral arginine was helpful for high blood pressure patients.53

Botanical Treatment Options

  • Archilla One double-blind study found that patients with mild high blood pressure given Achillea wilhelmsii in tincture form had marked reductions in diastolic and systolic blood pressure compared to patients on placebo. They received 15-20 drops twice/daily for 6 months hypertension took a tincture of Achillea wilhelmsii, an herb used in traditional Persian medicine.54 The patients reported no side effects effects.
  • Garlic & Onion A meta-anlysis of 10 trials found that garlic mildly lowers blood pressure.55 Patients received 600-900mg/garlic extract daily for a minimum of 4 weeks. Garlic's cousin, onion, may have a similar mild effect.56
  • European mistletoe Mistletoe has been found to lessen dizziness and headaches connected to high blood pressure 57 but must be taken for some weeks. However due to potential serious side effects it should be taken only with a medical provider's careful supervision.
  • Indian snakeroot Indian snakeroot is a traditional treatment for high blood pressure, especially that tied to anxiety. 59 However, due to potential serious side effects, it should be taken only with careful supervision of a professional trained in using it.
  • Oleuropein (from olive leaf) is a traditional treament for hypertension.61 It has been found to reduce blood pressure and dilate the arteries around the heart when received via injection or IV60 but controlled studies are needed.
  • Reishi mushrooms One double-blind study found that reishi mushroom markedly reduces human blood pressure62 at 25:1 extract, 55mg three times/daily for 4 weeks, but the time before results are experienced was unclear in the trial.
  • Hawthorne Extracts of the leaf and flower have been found to give a mild blood pressure lowering result in patients with early congestive heart failure.63 It has not been studied in high blood pressure patients with normal heart functioning.
  • Coleus forskohlii There is limited evidence that coleus forskohlii reduces blood pressure but it hasn't been researched. However, in a small trial forskolin (its active component) lowered blood pressure in heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy) patients.64 Further research is needed.
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa One trial found that high blood pressure patients who received Hibiscus tea or regular tea daily experienced a 11% drop in blood pressure compared to 4% in the group receiving regular tea.66

Studies

See footnotes and research.

More footnotes:

105. Ospina MB, Bond K, Karkhaneh M, et al. (June 2007). "Meditation practices for health: state of the research". Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep) (155): 148
106. Anderson, J.; Liu, C.; Kryscio, R. Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: A metaanalysis. Am. J. Hypertens 2008, 21, 310-316
107. Barnes, V.A.; Treiber, F.A.; Davis, H. Impact of transcendental meditation on cardiovascular function at rest and during acute stress in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. J. Psychosom. Res. 2001, 51, 597-605
108. Schneider, R.H.; Alexander, D.N.; Wallace, R.K. In search of an optimal behavioral treatment for hypertension: A review and focus on transcendental meditation. In Personality, elevated blood pressure, and essential hypertension, Johnson, E.H.; Gentry, W.D.; Julius, S., Eds.; Hemisphere: Washington, DC, USA, 1992; pp. 291-312
109. Mind-Body Practices in Integrative Medicine, Harald Walach, Marie-Louise Gander Ferrari, Sebastian Sauer and Niko Kohls, Religions 2012, 3, 50-81.
110. Effects of electrical stimulation of acupuncture points on blood pressure, Zhang J, Ng D, Sau A., J Chiropr Med. 2009 Mar;8(1):9-14.
111. Systematic review of effect of coenzyme Q10 in physical exercise, hypertension and heart failure, Rosenfeldt F, Hilton D, Pepe S, Krum H., Biofactors. 2003;18(1-4):91-100.