[Paleopsych] NYT: Regimens: Cause, Effect and Vegetables

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Fri Feb 4 14:43:44 UTC 2005

Vital Signs: Regimens: Cause, Effect and Vegetables
NYT January 11, 2005

Many large-scale epidemiological studies have found that
vegetarians are less likely than meat eaters to have high
blood pressure. But moving from that observation to proof
of cause and effect can be difficult, because the findings
may reflect an unknown third factor - for example, a
tendency of vegetarians to do other healthy things as well.

An article in the January issue of the journal Nutrition
Reviews examined a number of studies that found ways around
that difficulty, in some cases by comparing two groups who
led similar lives except for diet. One set of researchers,
for instance, turned to monks. Trappists are strict
vegetarians, and Benedictines are not, and blood pressure,
they found, was lower in Trappist monasteries.

Other researchers compared Seventh-day Adventists, who
avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and meat, with Mormons,
who shun those substances except meat. The researchers
found that fewer Adventists had hypertension and that the
gap widened with age.

Other researchers have tried to settle the question
experimentally, by assigning meat-eating subjects to
vegetarian or omnivorous diets, according to the new
article, whose lead author was Dr. Susan E. Berkow of the
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

One such study, of people with normal blood pressure, found
that six weeks without meat led to an average drop of 5
points in systolic pressure, the upper number, and a
2-or-3-point drop in diastolic pressure.

In a yearlong study of mild hypertension, the blood
pressure of people on a vegetarian diet dropped compared
with those still eating meat, even though three-quarters of
the vegetarian group stopped taking medication for high
blood pressure.


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