How Mediterranean diet lowers blood pressure

How Mediterranean diet lowers blood pressure

Blood pressure – or Hypertension – should be seen as an indicator, a “risk factor” for other diseases, but not as one in its own right. This very fact means that it should not be simply treated in a blanket and uniform manner, if found to be elevated, but examined in this broader picture.

The main reason for this is that treating it without this assessment means a “symptom” rather than a “disease” is being treated, and, as there are significant side effects to blood pressure medication, this is an important first step. Also you may be living in a fool’s paradise, where treatment lowers the pressure, but not the factors that lead to the increase in pressure and hence to the resulting disease.

But the principle question should be “what is elevating the blood pressure in the first place?” It may be that there is arterial or vascular disease, which usually provides a clear pattern on measurement, often with a wider than usual range between the two levels measured; that is, the systolic, or higher end, and the diastolic, or lower.

Taking this out of the equation – because it is a vascular disease problem primarily – then the question is what raises the pressure within the blood vessels? Without doubt the major factor here is stress, whether psychological or physiological; that is mind or body.

We will examine the issue of psychological stress in detail elsewhere, but it should not be forgotten that it is probably the major contributor. So, it is important to look at this first, and this demands a level of insight and self responsibility with management, rather than relying on medication to “fix the problem”.

In this article the value of a sound diet is appreciating the physiological stress that can be reduced or eliminated with the right diet. Why should we be surprised? But don’t forget that it is not usually a question of either the mind or the body, but both operating in the problem, because it may be stress that produces the poor diet in the first place!


How Mediterranean diet lowers blood pressure

Marc Llewellyn ABC

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The typical Mediterranean diet is known to combat high blood pressure, but now scientists believe they have pinned down the mechanism behind its success.

Working on mutant mice, a group of researchers based in the UK and the USA have linked unsaturated fats (found in food such as olive oil and nuts) and nitrite and nitrate (found in significant quantities in leafy green vegetables) to a reduction in blood pressure in rodents.

Olive oil and plant-based foods, together with the occasional serving of fish and chicken, a low intake of red meat, and moderate consumption of wine, typically make up the Mediterranean diet.

The research, which is published in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the process by which unsaturated fat combine with nitrite and nitrate to form nitro fatty acids. It showed that these inhibit the activity of an enzyme called soluable Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH), which then leads to the lowering of blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common circulatory system problem, affecting around 32 per cent of all Australian adults. It is a major risk factor for stroke, ischemic heart disease, and other chronic cardiovascular diseases.

To determine whether the inhibition of sEH was sufficient to lower blood pressure, Professor Philip Eaton, from Kings College, London, worked with colleagues to create mutant mice that had underlying high blood pressure and whose sEH enzyme could not be inhibited by nitro fatty acids.

Blocking the enzyme…

When mice were fed unsaturated fats and food rich in nitrite and nitrate, the enzyme was inhibited in the wild-type mice but not in the mutant mice. The wild-type mice, showed signs of lowered blood pressure and heart protection, but the genetically engineered mice did not.

“We think this work is important because it provides convincing, molecular-level evidence about how key components of the Mediterranean diet … can lower blood pressure and so combat hypertension,” says Eaton.

“As high blood pressure is a broad risk factor for many other diseases, this may help explain in part the health-benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet.”

Drugs could be developed that capitalised further on this natural protective mechanism, he suggests.

Randomised controlled trials have previously shown that the Mediterranean diet has positive effects on blood pressure in humans. Past research has also shown that it is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and can protect against Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and various types of cancer. It can also lower cholesterol and improve rheumatoid arthritis.