Chinese heart-healthy diet could lower blood pressure, study finds

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Scientists from Peking University found that eating a modified version of traditional Chinese food containing half the amount of sodium may strongly lower blood pressure for Chinese adults in just a few weeks.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood.

The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.

Eating an unhealthy diet, especially one high in sodium, is considered a big risk factor for high blood pressure.

More than one-fifth of the world’s population consumes Chinese cuisines regularly, but no evidence-based healthy diets fitting the Chinese food culture are available.

In the study, researchers aimed to test if a low-salt Chinese diet could help lower blood pressure and protect heart health.

They tested 265 adults with 130 to 159 mmHg baseline systolic blood pressure for 4 major Chinese cuisines (Shangdong, Huaiyang, Cantonese, Szechuan).

The participants were assigned to eat a control diet or a cuisine-based Chinese heart-healthy diet for another 28 days.

In the Chinese heart-healthy diet, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and calcium intake increased in the group eating the modified cuisines, while sodium decreased by half – from nearly 6,000 milligrams daily to about 3,000.

The modified Chinese food diet was modeled after the heart-healthy Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

The researchers found that eating heart-healthy diets lowered participants’ calories from fat by 11%, increased calorie intake from carbohydrates by 8%, and increased calories from protein by 4%.

Although blood pressure declined in both groups, participants who ate heart-healthy versions of their traditional diets saw much bigger declines.

In these people, the systolic blood pressure fell by an extra 10 mmHg on average compared with the control group; diastolic blood pressure dropped nearly an extra 4 mmHg.

Results were similar across the four regional styles of Chinese cuisine.

Based on the findings, the team concluded that the Chinese heart-healthy diet is an effective, palatable, and cost-effective way of reducing blood pressure in Chinese adults with high blood pressure.

The beneficial effect is strong and comparable across major Chinese cuisine cultures.

The research is published in Circulation and was conducted by Dr. Yangfeng Wu et al.

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