NEW YORK, May 5 (Reuters) People who swap their plate of pasta for a serving of lean red meat might shave some points off of their blood pressure, a small study suggests.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, add to evidence that blood pressure dips when people replace some refined carbohydrates with lean protein. In an earlier study, the same researchers found that soy protein seemed to help control high blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension.
The current study included 60 Australian adults with moderately elevated blood pressure who were randomly assigned to either follow their normal diet for eight weeks, or go on a diet that replaced some high-carb foods -- including white bread, pasta and rice -- with lean red meat.
After eight weeks, systolic blood pressure -- the top number in a reading - was about four points lower in the carb-cutting group than in the comparison group.
Dr Jonathan M. Hodgson of the University of Western Australia in Perth led the study, which received funding from Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd.
That red meat could lower blood pressure may sound counterintuitive. For a number of health reasons, experts generally recommend that people consume red meat in moderation, and bulk up on foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and fiber-rich whole grains.
Moreover, a number of studies have shown that vegetarian diets can lower blood pressure.
However, Hodgson and his colleagues point out, these diets are also full of fruits, vegetables, fiber and other components that may make for healthier blood pressure, and the absence of meat is not necessarily the key.
There is evidence, the researchers note, that certain amino acids found in meat protein actually improve blood vessel function and blood pressure levels. In addition, carb-cutters in their study slightly reduced their sodium intake, possibly because they ate less bread and breakfast cereal.
''Within the context of other studies,'' Hodgson's team concludes, ''these results suggest that modest substitution of carbohydrate-rich foods with protein-rich foods may lower blood pressure in hypertensive persons.'' REUTERS SHB ND0904