High blood pressure (hypertension) is extremely common in developed countries. Many feel eating less and exercising is the main prescription for improving blood pressure. While nutrition and lifestyle changes play a large role for improving blood pressure, many diets exists. In the OmniHeart study, a randomized cross-over trial among 164 US adults with untreated (pre)hypertension, a 6-week protein-rich diet reduced BP by 1.6/1.4mmHg when compared with a carbohydrate-rich diet (Appel 2005). However, the study noted the Mediterranean diet caused a similar reduction in blood pressure compared to the protein-rich diet. When making nutritional recommendation for weight management and blood pressure reduction, we often suggest increasing protein intake. However, no single diet works for every individual. Moreover, instead of dieting, single nutritional improvements result in greater lifestyle change and maintenance. Too often maintaining weight loss and the associate benefits of weight loss are ignored, when this is the greater struggle.

A recent study by Engberink (2015) also found a diet higher in protein, resulted in greater maintenance of blood pressure reduction after losing weight. This study suggested a target protein content of 23–28 energy percent (en%) for the high-protein diet and 10–15 en% for the lower-protein control group. In these groups, the high-protein control diet consumed 80 grams of protein compared to 65 grams on average. While both groups increased blood pressure, the increase was 2.2mmHg less in (pre)hypertensive participants who increased protein intake to ~22 en% at the expense of carbohydrates.

Whether you are beginning a nutritional plan or simply trying to maintain, a higher protein intake at the expense of carbohydrates seems helpful. When considering how much protein to intake, the following is suggested:

“[t]he Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average individual should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram or 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day for general health. So a person that weighs 75 kg (165 pounds) should consume an average of 60 grams of protein per day. Since there are approximately four calories per gram of protein, 60 grams of protein would result in the intake of 240 calories. ”

However, even this research study used a lower protein group, than the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for active adults:

“To increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that lifts weights regularly or is training for a running or cycling event eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. Consequently, the same 75 kilogram individual should increase their protein intake to 75 grams (300 calories) to 128 grams (512 calories) in order to gain muscle mass. This level of intake can generally be met through diet alone and without additional protein and amino acid supplementation.”

Make sure your protein intake is adequate for your activity level, age, and goals. Too often, a diet tries to fit everyone in the same category.

No two people are the same!

Vegan, vegetarian, low carb, ketogenic, paleo…whatever your fad, ensure your protein intake is enough, especially if you’re working on weight management!

Reference:

  1. Engberink MF, Geleijnse JM, Bakker SJ, Larsen TM, Handjieva-Darlesnka T, Kafatos A, Martinez JA, Pfeiffer AF, Kunešová M, Jebb SA, Holst C, Astrup A, Saris WH, Brink EJ, van Baak MA. Effect of a high-protein diet on maintenance of blood pressure levels achieved after initial weight loss: the DiOGenes randomized studyJ Hum Hypertens. 2015 Jan;29(1):58-63. doi: 10.1038/jhh.2014.30. Epub 2014 Apr 24.
  2. Appel LJ, Sacks FM, Carey VJ, Obarzanek E, Swain JF, Miller 3rd ER et al. OmniHeart Collaborative Research Group. Effects of protein, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate intake on blood pressure and serum lipids: results of the OmniHeart randomized trial.JAMA 2005; 294: 2455–2464.