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Feb 24, 2014 05:57 PM EST

Vegetarian Diets May Reduce Blood Pressure

A vegetarian diet may help lower blood pressure, according to a recent study HealthDay reported.

Researchers from the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan found that eating a vegetarian diet could be a could way to treat high blood pressure without medication.

High blood pressure could lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disorders and other health problems. Many people turn to medication to treat high blood pressure, but that usually comes with costs, and possible side effects, lead author Yoko Yokoyama told Reuters.

"If a diet change can prevent blood pressure problems or can reduce blood pressure, it would give hope to many people," Yokoyama said.

For the study, Yokoyama and her colleagues reviewed 39 studies, including 32 observational studies and seven controlled trials, involving nearly 22,000 people. They discovered that vegetarians had blood pressure that was significantly lower than those who ate meat.

In the observational studies, researchers found that people who had been eating a vegetarian diet had an average systolic blood pressure that was about 7 mm Hg lower than among meat-eaters and a diastolic blood pressure that was 5 mm Hg lower, Reuters reported.

Researchers found that participants in the clinical trials who were given vegetarian diets to follow had, on average, a systolic blood pressure that was 5 mm Hg lower and a diastolic blood pressure that was 2 mm Hg lower than participants in control groups who were not on vegetarian diets, Reuters reported.

"Unlike drugs, there is no cost to a diet adjustment of this type, and all the 'side effects' of a plant-based diet are desirable: weight loss, lower cholesterol, and better blood sugar control, among others," Yokoyama said.

"Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive," Yokoyama said.

Blood pressure readings under 120 Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic (120/80) are considered normal. High blood pressure starts at 140/90, according to the American Heart Association.

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