High protein diets may lead to lower blood pressure

Adults who consume an average of 100 grams (g) of protein per day may be at a lower risk for developing high blood pressure (HBP). A recent study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, found participants consuming the highest amount of protein (an average of 100 g protein/day) had a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure compared to the lowest intake level.

The researchers analyzed protein intakes of healthy participants from the Framingham Offspring Study and followed them for development of high blood pressure over an 11-year period. They found that adults who consumed more protein, whether from animal or plant sources, had statistically significantly lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure levels after four years of follow-up. In general, these beneficial effects were evident for both overweight and normal weight individuals. They also found that consuming more dietary protein also was associated with lower long-term risks for HBP (HBP is a risk factor for stroke and can contribute to heart disease). When the diet was also characterized by higher intakes of fiber, higher protein intakes led to 40-60 percent reductions in risk of HBP.

“These results provide no evidence to suggest that individuals concerned about the development of HBP should avoid dietary protein. Rather, ,” explained Lynn Moore, a corresponding author and associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine suggests that “protein intake may play a role in the long-term prevention of HBP” and that “this growing body of research on the vascular benefits of protein, including this study, suggest we need to revisit optimal protein intake for optimal heart health”.

There are many factors that play a role in blood pressure regulation such as exercise habits, smoking history, weight control, electrolyte intake, etc. and more research is needed to determine the role that protein plays in blood pressure control.  Since protein plays a vital role in overall health, making sure you are taking in adequate protein is important; everyone has different protein needs (ranging from 0.8g per kg to 1.4+g per kg); ask your Registered Dietitian what your individualized needs are. Here is a sampling of protein sources and estimated protein content per suggested serving. Remember that plant foods can be good sources of protein too!

  • Lean meats such as chicken breast. A serving would be about the size of the palm of your hand or about 3 oz. (about 26 grams protein)
  • Seafood such as shrimp, lobster, flounder, salmon, etc. A serving be about the size of your hand or about 3-4 oz. (about 24-27 grams protein)
  • Eggs and egg whites. A serving would be 2 whole eggs or 6-8 egg whites or 1 whole egg and 4 egg whites. (about 14-20 grams protein)
  • Plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils or tofu. A serving of beans/lentils would be ½-1 cup. Tofu would be about a ½ cup (about 7-16 grams protein).
  • Nuts/nut butter and seeds. A serving is about ¼ cup or 1 oz. for nuts and seeds or 1 Tbsp. Nut butter (about 4-8 grams protein)
  • ¼ cup dry steel oats (5 grams protein)
  • 6 oz. of Greek yogurt = (~15 grams protein)

Reference:

R. Buendia, M. L. Bradlee, M. R. Singer, L. L. Moore. Diets Higher in Protein Predict Lower High Blood Pressure Risk in Framingham Offspring Study Adults. American Journal of Hypertension, 2014.

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