J Hypertens. 1993 Aug; 11(8): 849-60.
Biochemical and neurohormonal responses to the introduction of a lacto-ovovegetarian diet.
Department of Medicine, University of Western Australia, Perth.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the mechanisms of the blood pressure-lowering effect of a vegetarian diet in the early and later stages of dietary intervention. DESIGN: After 2 weeks without intervention (baseline), 20 normotensive men were matched for age and body mass index and randomly allocated to an omnivorous (control) or a lacto-ovovegetarian diet for 6 weeks in a parallel trial. METHODS: Ambulatory blood pressures were recorded between 0800 and 1700 h on alternate days during the first week of intervention, twice in the second week and weekly thereafter. Blood samples collected after a standard breakfast were analysed for plasma noradrenaline, adrenaline, atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), renin, aldosterone, glucose and insulin. Factor and multiple regression analyses were used to assess the association among neurohormonal factors, blood pressures and diet. Results were analysed for the first week of the diet and for the entire 6 weeks. RESULTS: Ambulatory blood pressures at work were lower on the vegetarian diet than in the controls. This blood pressure decrease was associated with a factor representing lower plasma catecholamine and renin activity levels throughout the study, and a factor representing reduced plasma glucose and insulin levels in week 1 of intervention only. Plasma ANP levels were significantly higher during week 1 of the vegetarian diet. CONCLUSIONS: A blood pressure lowering effect of a vegetarian diet during normal working activity was shown. Using factors derived from the biochemical variables, results were in keeping with the hypothesis that these effects may be mediated by reduced sympatho-adrenal activity consequent to altered glucose and insulin handling. An early increase in plasma ANP may contribute to the blood pressure reduction.