Purpose of review: There has not been a thorough recent evaluation of the nutritional effects on blood pressure. Apart from outstanding clinical trials like Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, there have been controversial papers on a number of factors influencing blood pressure. This paper is a systematic review of the current literature as it relates to hypertension.
Recent findings: Results from many meta-analyses and well controlled clinical trials on the effects of a variety of nutritional factors are presented in this review. Evidence suggests that dietary sodium intake needs reduction. There is a seemingly inverse relationship between protein intake and blood pressure, but data are inconclusive. High monounsaturated fat and fish oil appear to be beneficial. Several studies on dietary fiber indicate that the strongest evidence for blood pressure lowering effects is in hypertensive as opposed to normotensive participants. Vegetarians seem to have lower levels of hypertension and cardiovascular disease risk. Low carbohydrate diets show short-term beneficial effects but are not sustained. High levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium and soy seem to have some benefit, but results remain inconclusive. Weight reduction positively impacts blood pressure.
Summary: More compelling research defining specific factors is needed to inform the public as to steps needed to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular risk.