Can Soy Lower Your Blood Pressure?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. That’s an estimated 68 million people, and another 30% are pre-hypertensive, that is, their blood pressure numbers are higher than the normal 120 over 80. Although 70% of those with high blood pressure take medications to treat the condition, dietary changes could also help lower blood pressure. In addition to a low-sodium diet with lots of potassium from fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and other lean proteins, new research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session reveals a compound found in soy may significantly help reduce blood pressure.
A study called the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults was analyzed for the development of cardiovascular disease in its 5,115 subjects between the ages of 18-30. The 20th year of the study was the first that collected extensive dietary information. Researchers evaluated the relation between daily isoflavone intake and systolic blood pressure. After controlling for age, sex, BMI, smoking, alcohol, physical activity, and total caloric intake, a significant relationship was found between daily isoflavone intake(more than 2.5 mg) and lower systolic blood pressure. A 10 mmHg dop in systolic blood pressure was observed in pre-hypertensive participants. Lead investigator, Safiya Richardson, had this to say of their findings, “Any dietary or lifestyle modification people can easily make that doesn't require a daily medication is exciting, especially considering recent figures estimating that only about a third of American hypertensives have their blood pressure under control.” It may be worth incorporating more foods with isoflavones in your diet.
What are Isoflavones?
Isoflavones are a subclass of flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of chronic diseases. There are three major isoflavones found in soybeans: daidzin, genistin, and glycitin. According to a report in Immunologic Research, they exhibit chemopreventive and anti-imflammatory properties. They are also known as phytoestrogens for their ability to bind to estrogen receptors. They work by increasing the production of enzymes that create nitric oxide, which helps to widen blood vessels, resulting in a reduction of the pressure created by blood against the vessel walls. The concentration of isoflavones varies widely and depends on the processing techniques used during production.
Isoflavone Content in Soy Foods
While small amounts are found in other food items, isoflavones are found in abundance in soybeans and soy products. Stick to minimally processed sources of soy to get the highest isoflavone content. The USDA’s database for the isoflavone content lists over 550 foods by mg per 100 grams. The highest content of isoflavones in the list is found in raw soybeans. Additional soy products that will help you reach the 2.5 mg per day that acted as a benchmark for the aforementioned study includes a soy flour, soy milk, tempeh, textured tofu, or soy yogurt. Supplements may not have the same effect, A study of the quality of commercially available soy supplements suggests that less than 25% of products contain within 90% of labeled isoflavone content.
Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
In addition to eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, reducing stress, and not smoking will help lower your blood pressure. You might also find losing pounds will help, a loss of just 10 pounds could reduce your blood pressure. Limit your alcohol intake as well. While small amounts of alcohol have been shown to reduce blood pressure, more than one drink a day for women and two for men could spell trouble. Caffeine intake should also be kept in check. Lastly, monitor your blood pressure regularly to be sure yours is under control. Work with your physician to come up with a plan to get or keep your blood pressure in the normal range.
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