What’s known for sure is that vegetarians DO have lower blood pressure than meat eaters. Numerous studies have conclusively shown this, including most recently a report in Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine by Dr. Neal Barnard of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). He and his colleagues based their conclusions on at least 7 controlled trials and 32 observational studies.
As early as 2006, inspired by research that showed “individuals who consume a vegetarian diet have markedly lower blood pressures than do non-vegetarians,” the National Institute of Health recommended that we eat diets rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans.
The question, however, of exactly WHY and HOW vegetarian diets keep blood pressure lower than diets with meat is still open. According to Dr. Barnard, “Many people will say it’s because a plant-based diet is rich in potassium. That seems to lower blood pressure. However, I think there’s a more important factor: viscosity, how thick your blood is.”
The World Health Organization has already linked saturated fat to viscous blood and a risk for high blood pressure. With that in mind, Barnard goes on to paint a very unpretty picture of bacon grease hardening in a frying pan as it cools and actually solidifying. Comparing this to what’s happening in our own bodies, he adds, “Animal fat in your bloodstream has the same effect. If you’re eating animal fat, your blood is actually thicker and has a hard time circulating. So the heart has to push harder to get the blood to flow. If you’re not eating meat, your blood viscosity drops and your blood pressure drops. We think that’s the more important reason.”
Sure sounds logical to me.
On the subject of heavy Thanksgiving turkey meals that send stupefied diners to sleepy-land, Barnard says, “People say it’s the tryptophan in the turkey, but it’s not. It’s all the gravy and the grease that’s entered their bloodstream. It reduces the amount of oxygen that’s getting to their brain and they just fall asleep.”
Oh my. I myself have been eating less and less meat for numerous reasons. Add Dr. Barnard’s opinions to these reasons and the vegetarian path looks smarter all the time.