Changes in Diet, Not Pills, Can Improve BP

MARCH 01, 2006

A new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) on dietary habits emphasizes weight loss, cutting back on salt and alcohol, and increasing dietary potassium as tangible methods for reducing high blood pressure (BP). At the same time, the AHA does not recommend the use of supplements. Although the results of numerous studies suggest that supplements— such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin C—are associated with lower BP, the AHA states that the data from these studies are unclear or insufficient.

In the statement, published in the February issue of Hypertension, the AHA advises that "the preferred strategy to increase potassium intake is to consume foods such as fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium, rather than supplements."

The findings of clinical trials of omega-3 fatty acids have suggested that they may lower BP in patients with hypertension, but the effect appeared to be dose-dependent, and those doses tended to be relatively high (>3 g/day). Such high doses bring about unwanted side effects, which prompted the AHA to discourage their use.

Results from studies of other suggested BP-lowering supplements appear inconclusive, the AHA said. There were no consistent links between the supplements and the lowering of BP.