Go with your gut to treat hypertension, study says


06 Mar 2018 --- The metabolic and microbiological background of an individual can determine the success of dietary change in the treatment of high blood pressure, research suggests. The study, led by a scientist at the University of Kent, notes that an individual’s gut health should be taken into account when deciding on the course of treatment for high blood pressure.

A healthy diet has been a widely accepted approach to managing high blood pressure, but this study shows how a person’s insides may determine the diets effectiveness.

Dr. Ruey Leng Loo, of Kent's Medway School of Pharmacy, working with researchers from Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University in the US, studied urine samples from 158 study participants with pre-hypertension and stage one hypertension.

The urinary “finger-printing” was used to determine the effects of three healthy diets – a carbohydrate-rich, a protein-rich, and monounsaturated fat-rich – on the participants in a six week period. Urine samples were used to track the participants' total excretion of metabolites (substance necessary for metabolism). 

It was found that each of the diets reduced blood pressure in the majority of the participants, but not across the board. A small proportion of individuals responded worse to the healthy diets. 

The underlying reason for the differentiation was found to be individual differences in their metabolic response – gut bacteria – which was detected by analyzing the bacterial metabolites in the urine samples. 

Primarily, the research identifies the potential influence of the gut microbiome in mediating the relation between high blood pressure and dietary change. This approach provides a framework for the classification of individuals undergoing dietary management for hypertension and high blood pressure.

Potentially, diet change alone may not be the most effective tool for lowering blood pressure in some individuals, if it is not mediated with the individual’s personal microbiological background. This research opens a space for further research into the topic.

Hypertension & diet

The worldwide prevalence of high blood pressure – globally it is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths per year – places its management firmly in the public interest. Importantly, diet is something a consumer can handle independently in the quest for health.

Diet has long been accepted as a beneficial tool for managing and reducing high blood pressure. In particular, the DASH diet has received global acclaim for its hypertension relieving qualities. 

NutritionInisght has reported on the scientific merits of the DASH diet, as well as its significance to high-blood pressure when combined with low-sodium intake. However, with the findings of this study, consumers may well look toward infusing their DASH diet with extra gut-boosting items. Although, the study does not explicitly differentiate between a healthy gut and a less healthy gut.

Notably, consumer knowledge on “keeping your gut happy” is becoming widespread, and food manufacturers have responded to this with force in their products. Innova Market Insights data shows that digestive/gut health ranks as the most popular active health positioning from global product launch activity tracked in 2016. It accounted for 28 percent of active health product launches. Probiotic products can now be found across the food groups, from dairy to vegan options, and further research into probiotic fortification abounds.

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