According to a new study, large quantities of vegetables, fruits, and other plant foods appear to reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure, whereas meat raises the risk.
Lead author Dr. Lyn M. Steffen, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues acknowledge that other reports have shown similar associations, but say few studies have specifically addressed this topic in young adults.
In their study the researchers evaluated over a 15-year period, the elevated blood pressure, defined as at least 130 over 85 or use of a BP lowering agent, in 4300 subjects.
The group were made up of roughly equal numbers of black and white men and women, between 18 and 30 years of age.
Dietary assessments were carried out at enrollment and then at 15 years into the study.
It appeared that as plant food intake rose, the risk of elevated blood pressure fell.
However, the investigators found the opposite trend was seen with meat intake, whereas dairy consumption did not seem to have a consistent effect on blood pressure.
The authors therefore conclude that a greater plant food intakes and lower meat intakes as part of a habitual diet may prevent the development of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2005.