Consuming glutamic acid – an amino acid commonly found in vegetable protein – may be associated with lower blood pressure, researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers found that a 4.72 percent higher dietary intake of the amino acid glutamic acid as a percent of total dietary protein correlated with lower group average systolic blood pressure, lower by 1.5 to 3.0 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Group average diastolic blood pressure was lower by 1.0 to 1.6 mm Hg.
This average lower blood pressure seems small from an individual perspective. But, on a population scale, it represents a potentially important reduction, said Jeremiah Stamler, M.D., lead author of the study.
“It is estimated that reducing a population’s average systolic blood pressure by 2 mm Hg could cut stroke death rates by 6 percent and reduce mortality from coronary heart disease by 4 percent,” said Stamler, professor emeritus of the Department of Preventive Medicine in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill.
Based on American Heart Association 2009 statistics, 6 percent of stroke deaths would be more than 8,600 people and four percent of coronary heart deaths represents about 17,800 lives saved per year.
“High blood pressure is a major cardiovascular disease risk factor, and blood pressure tends to rise with age starting early in life so that the majority of the U.S. population age 35 and older is affected by pre-hypertension or hypertension,” he said.
The only long-term approach is to prevent pre-hypertension and hypertension by improved lifestyle behaviors, Stamler said. This includes maintaining a healthy body weight, having a fruit and vegetable-rich eating pattern and participating in regular physical activity.
In the current study, researchers examined dietary amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Glutamic acid is the most common amino acid and accounts for almost a quarter (23 percent) of the protein in vegetable protein and almost one fifth (18 percent) of animal protein.
Common sources of vegetable protein include beans, whole grains – including whole grain rice, pasta, breads and cereals – and soy products such as tofu. Durum wheat, which is used to make pasta, is also a good source of vegetable protein.
Source: American Heart Association, USA