Did you realize that altering your diet could have a very positive effect on your blood pressure? In this article, we look at specific foods that can be used to support a healthy blood pressure.
Blood pressure can be influenced by many factors, including smoking, alcohol, genetics, activity level, stress, and age. Some factors cannot be change, but there are lifestyle factors that can be changed to have a positive impact on blood pressure. Specifically, certain foods and some nutrients such as riboflavin have been shown to support healthier blood pressure when added into some patient’s diet.
There are many diet and lifestyle factors that are important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure in all stages of life. Healthy proteins, fats, fiber, and nutrient rich carbohydrates are essential. Just adding one food item or one nutrient can have an impact on blood pressure. First, let’s discuss riboflavin.
Three recent research articles have come out explaining how in some individuals increasing riboflavin intake can lower systolic blood pressure. According to Wilson, et al., individuals with high blood pressure whom carry the MTHFR 677 TT genotype were shown to respond to riboflavin supplementation (1). Participants were randomized to receive either placebo or 1.6 mg/day of riboflavin for 16 weeks. These participants had not responded to conventional blood pressure medication treatment. A significant improvement in the overall riboflavin status was noted in the individuals receiving riboflavin, with an average 5.6 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure. Wilson et al, state that a 5 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure could translate into a reduction in stroke risk by over 20 percent! Two other studies support this finding (2, 3).
There are a few ways to explain how increasing riboflavin intake in patients who are homozygous for the 677snp has a positive effect on systolic (but not diastolic) blood pressure. Riboflavin has been shown to act as a calcium channel blocker, blocking the release of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter). Calcium channel blockers relax and dilate blood vessels by directly affecting the muscle cells within the arterial walls. According to Wang et al, riboflavin-mediated inhibition of glutamate suppresses calcium channel activity and therefore inhibits glutamate release. This supports the finding that riboflavin has neuro-protective effects from neurotoxicity.
Keep in mind the RDA for riboflavin is 1.3 mg/day with no known toxicity. Levels in excess of 27 mg/day are excreted (seen as bright yellow urine). Foods sources of riboflavin include beef liver, some dairy products, mushrooms, spinach, almonds, and sun-dried tomatoes. Additional foods that can be recommended include celery, garlic, Hawthorne berry and healthy monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts).
Are there other therapeutic foods that can positively impact blood pressure? According to Mark Houston, MD, yes. Consider Hawthorne berry. Hawthorne acts as a natural beta blocker and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor. Hawthorne has been shown to improve ejection fraction, improve congestive heart failure, protect renal function, lower proteinuria and improve insulin sensitivity (6-10).
Another important aspect of blood pressure is the sodium to potassium ratio. It is often discussed in the news about cutting down on sodium intake, but what about increasing potassium intake? Most would agree that sodium intake should fall between 500 – 2300 milligrams per day. Potassium intake should be 4700 milligrams per day or higher, with sodium: potassium ratio of 1:2 or higher. Note: sodium is not the bad guy! We need sodium to survive. What is important is the ratio. Consuming foods rich in potassium is quite doable. Foods rich in potassium include beet greens, spinach, Swiss chard, raw nuts, potatoes (eat the skin), raisins/craisins, avocados, and some fruits such as bananas or dried apricots.
- Wilson C. et al. Blood Pressure in Treated Hypertensive Individuals with the MTHFR 677TT Genotype is responsive to Intervention with Riboflavin. Hypertension. March 2013.
- Shi Z., Yuan B., Taylor A., Zhen S., Zuo H., Dai Y., Wittert G. Riboflavin intake and 5-year blood pressure change in Chinese adults: interaction with hypertensive medication. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. 2014;35(1).
- McCartney DMA., Byrne DG., Turner MJ. Dietary contributors to hypertension in adults reviewed. Ireland J med Science. 2015.
- Wang SJ., Wu WM., Yang FL., Hsu GS., Huang CY. Vitamin B2 inhibits glutamate release from rate cerebrocortical nerve terminals. Neuroreport. 2008. 19(13);1335-8.
- Houston, M. The role of nutrition, Nutraceuticals, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals in the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Alter Ther. 2013:19(1); 32-49.
- Houston, M. Nutrition and Nutraceuticals supplements for the treatment of hypertension: part 1. J Clinical Hypertension. 2013;15(10):752-757.
- Houston, M. Nutrition and Nutraceuticals supplements for the treatment of hypertension: part II. J Clinical Hypertension. 2013;15(11):845-851.
- Houston, M. Nutrition and Nutraceuticals supplements for the treatment of hypertension: part III. J Clinical Hypertension. 2013;15(12):931-937.
- Walker AF, Marakis G., Morris , Robinson PA. Promising hypotensive effect of hawthorn extract: a randomized doubleblind pilot study of mild, essential hypertension. Phytother Res. 2002;16(1):48-54.
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