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Deep Dive: Does calorie restriction reduce blood pressure?

Cutting calories lowers blood pressure in people with obesity, but the effect wanes with time.

Study under review: The effect of caloric restriction on blood pressure and cardiovascular function: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Introduction

One of the most prevalent and high-risk health conditions worldwide is hypertension, also called high blood pressure. Blood pressure (BP) refers to the pressure that the blood exerts on the arteries after the heart contracts (systolic blood pressure, SBP) or relaxes between beats (diastolic blood pressure, DBP). Under normal conditions, the arteries accommodate their diameter to the amount of blood that the heart propels. Hence, BP is determined by the amount of blood that the heart ejects and the resistance the arteries provide.

Alterations in the arterial wall[1], among other factors[2], can lead to increases in BP, which subsequently can start a cascade of events leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, and constitutes one of the main causes of diseases in the modern world[3]. The most burdensome diseases caused by hypertension worldwide are shown in Figure 1. Hypertension is also associated with other prevalent comorbidities, such as obesity and diabetes, which produce additional problems and likely share[4] common pathological mechanisms.

Figure 1: Most burdensome diseases caused by hypertension worldwide, as measured by disability-adjusted life years

Reference: Forouzanfar et al. JAMA. 2017 Jan.[5]

Calorie restriction (CR) is well supported[6] for the treatment and prevention of chronic, lifestyle- and aging-associated diseases. Since there is a tight link between hypertension and overweight and obesity, it is expected that CR would have an effect on BP by causing a reduction in bodyweight, and potentially[7] through other mechanisms[8].

The authors of the current study conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCT) testing the effects of CR on BP and cardiovascular function in humans.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular mortality in the world. Calorie restriction, which has strong scientific support for preventing chronic and lifestyle- and aging-associated diseases, might be an effective treatment for hypertension.

What was studied?

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