January 25, 2010
Low Carbo Diet Lowers Blood Pressure

If you need to lose weight and lower your blood pressure read this:

DURHAM, NC ó In a head-to-head comparison, two popular weight loss methods proved equally effective at helping participants lose significant amounts of weight. But, in a surprising twist, a low-carbohydrate diet proved better at lowering blood pressure than the weight-loss drug orlistat, according to researchers at Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center.

Orlistat (aka Xenical or Alli) works by blocking fat absorption. So blocking fat absorption does not lower blood pressure as well as a low carb diet. Note that the orlistat diet participants were also counseled to reduce fat consumption.

The lead author recommends a low carb diet for those both overweight and with high blood pressure.

The findings send an important message to hypertensive people trying to lose weight, says William S. Yancy, Jr., MD, lead author of the study in the Jan. 25 Archives of Internal Medicine, and an associate professor of medicine at Duke. "If people have high blood pressure and a weight problem, a low-carbohydrate diet might be a better option than a weight loss medication."

The two diets yielded equal weight gains. They also improved blood cholesterol and glucose by about the same amount. But the low carb dieters did better on blood pressure control.

The average weight loss for both groups was nearly 10 percent of their body weight. "Not many studies are able to achieve that," says Yancy, who attributes the significant weight loss to the group counseling that was offered for 48 weeks. In fact, he says "people tolerated orlistat better than I expected. Orlistat use is often limited by gastro-intestinal side effects, but these can be avoided, or at least lessened, by following a low-fat diet closely. We counseled people on orlistat in our study fairly extensively about the low-fat diet."

In addition to achieving equal success at weight loss, the methods proved equally effective at improving cholesterol and glucose levels.

But Yancy said it was the difference in blood pressure results that was most surprising.

Nearly half (47%) of patients in the low-carbohydrate group had their blood pressure medication decreased or discontinued while only 21 percent of the orlistat plus low-fat diet group experienced a reduction in medication use. Systolic blood pressure dropped considerably in the low-carbohydrate group when compared to the orlistat plus low-fat diet group.

I am curious to know whether the low carb dieters ate disproportionately more protein or fat. Would a high protein and low carb diet lower blood pressure as well as the low carb diet used in this study?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 25 10:15 PM  Aging Diet Weight Studies

Thras said at January 26, 2010 7:10 AM:

Better than that, a calorie-unrestricted low-carb diet beat a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Unfortunately the study did not measure changes in body composition. Weight loss was greater on the low-carb diet, but not in a statistically significant way.

random said at January 26, 2010 9:15 AM:

Another odd side effect of low-carb diets it can alleviate arthritis for some. A friend of mine started having arthritis problems in his 30's and tried the atkins diet with phenomenal success in both weight loss and reduced pain. On the flip side, some people have problems with gout from a low-carb diet. They are unable to process all that protein correctly and it leads to a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints.

In the future, it will be interesting to see if diets can be tailored to better match a person's DNA profile.

Kudzu Bob said at January 26, 2010 7:05 PM:

Low carb dieters--or any other folks--who come down with gout might want to try cherry extract capsules and/or celery seed extract capsules. Don't ask me why they work.

Bob Badour said at January 26, 2010 7:18 PM:

I found allopurinol worked for me when I had gout.

Cherry is likely to bring one out of ketosis. Celery seed extract sounds interesting, though.

Scott Pierce said at January 27, 2010 12:20 PM:

I follow a low-carb, high-fat (saturated fat) diet and lost 20 lbs., my carpal tunnel and plantar fascitis(?) disappeared and I have never felt better. I avoid all grains and render my own lard. Saturated fat doesn't make you fat. It doesn't work that way. It does contain higher calories however grains cause leptin resistance in turn causing more calories to be consumed. I find on this diet I am more satiated and I simply eat less. Oh and did I mention my blood pressure is down dramatically along with my fasting triglycerides and HDL is up. I do get more protein but I don't purposely seek it out. I just simply avoid grains, sugars and vegetable oil and eat everything else, which includes a lot of sat. fat. My current diet is sure better than the advice we have been fed these last 50 years.

ron nord said at January 27, 2010 12:29 PM:

When I found out that I had diabetes, I took it very seriously. I went to a dietician and learned that to lose the weight than I wanted to do was pretty simple if I had the will power. Drop your intake of carbohydrates. I keep mine to between 40 and 125 per day and lost 25 pounds. Got my Fat content to under 20% and my BMI to 24.4 [used a Omron monitor bought over Amazon] Lots of carb counters on the internet. Lowered blood sugar, blood pressure, waist size from a 40 to a 34 with exercise.

shannonlove said at January 27, 2010 12:33 PM:

If you look back at all the studies about heart disease and fat, you see that almost universally they only controlled for fat intake. Basically, they just looked to see what effect fat intake had without looking at any other factors. They had the medical/scientific version of target fixation.

It appears, however, that it's not the fat but the combination of fats and sugar that really bad for you. Lard not's so bad for you without a lot carbs and potatoes aren't so bad without a lot of butter but fry your french fries in lard and you've created a problem.

JD Johannes said at January 27, 2010 12:45 PM:

From the abstract the low carb dieters were consuming less than 20grams of carbs a day. That puts a lot of people into ketosis where the body burns primarily fat for energy. In bodybuilding circles the ketogenic diet is also known to be a good anabolic and/or anti-catabolic diet. The changes in body composition are frequently more dramatic than the total weight lost which can have many positive effects.

RPW said at January 27, 2010 1:05 PM:

I took up a low-carb diet about 4 years ago. (male, 5'7", 50 yo) My weight went from 160 lbs to 175 lbs. My neck size went from 15 to 17. My waist stayed at 32. My arms, chest and rump are larger. So while I can't say it was a good way to lose weight, I think I'm in better shape than before.

With no significant change in my amount of exercise, I appear to have increased my muscle mass. I have always been a hiker and backpacker so I was not is poor shape before.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not Adonis. I still have a bit of blubber but I'm much more muscular than before.

Here's the downside: since almost eliminating grains and sugar from my diet, when I do splurge and eat a bunch of noodles or a few donuts, I get terrible heartburn. I can't help but wonder if my stomach has 'forgotten' how to digest this food?

Caveman Sam said at January 27, 2010 2:12 PM:

This isn't news to me. Check out Mark Sisson's website: http://marksdailyapple.com ... lots of good info on how we evolved to eat. Basically, fat doesn't make you fat, saturated fat doesn't "clog your arteries." It's good for you if you get it from the right sources. Mark has a very in-depth philosophy and it's worked great for me.

fiftyville said at January 27, 2010 2:23 PM:


Your stomach acid's purpose is to unroll and chop up all those tightly wound ingested proteins so they can be absorbed in the small intestine as amino acids. The acid is generated when the acid-secreting cells in your stomach are stimulated by the autonomic nervous system's reaction when you see food that you have a strong sense-memory of (commercials for barbecue do it for me). It may just be that since you deprive yourself of the carbo goodies, the sight or thought or smell of a doughnut or fresh hot bread or a pile of spaghetti puts your nervous system into overdrive and the acid flows freely. I used to get the same thing once in a while when I did Atkins the first time. I used an over-the-counter acid controller like famotidine when I ate and that helped a lot.

RobD said at January 27, 2010 3:00 PM:

Here is what Dr. Mike Eades has has to say about how low-carb lowers blood pressure

"Yes, it is simple. Reduce carbs, reduce insulin, reduce sodium resorption in the kidneys, reduce blood volume, reduce blood pressure. Or reduce carbs, reduce insulin, reduce stiffness of the arterial wall, reduce blood pressure. Or both. Itís as simple as that."

It is about half way down the page in the comment at:


Kudzu Bob said at January 27, 2010 8:36 PM:

"Cherry is likely to bring one out of ketosis."

Nope. I wrote "cherry extract capsules," which, like celery seed extract capsules, contain approximately zero carbs. Sugar-laden cherry juice, often used by gout sufferers, would of course be a very different matter.

Jess said at January 28, 2010 3:37 PM:

experiencing the painful beginnings of gout now, so the postings about cherry juice extract / celery seed extract is helpful. being about 65-70 pounds overweight with diabetes and high blood pressure (but without money or health insurance), my low carb experience has shown my fasting blood sugar drop from a dangerous 300 to 145 in about 6 weeks, and i've lost about 15 pounds. my blood pressure has also stabilized itself at about 127/82. i feel awesome, and have tons of energy, but the joint pain just started up and ouch!

one thing that has seemed to work tremendously for kidney weirdness (stones, infections) is watermelon seed tea. it's difficult to find seeded watermelons anymore, but we have a lovely international grocer who sells packages of them (they're a Vietnamese snack food). Grind the seeds, steep for 20 minutes, and drink. i'll update later whether it helps the gout pains.

Kudzu Bob said at January 28, 2010 7:24 PM:

Good luck, Jess. I am lucky that I have never suffered from gout.

You might want also want to consider the advisability of taking a gram of vitamin C with each meal. (I am NOT suggesting that you actually do so, merely that you investigate whether this seems like a safe and potentially useful option.) Because of Linus Pauling's highly controversial work I began to use even larger vitamin C doses--two grams three or four times a day--some years ago, and continue to do so, and also ingest large amounts of many other nutrients. After I embarked on this course of self-experimentation, subsequent annual physicals showed a marked drop in my uric acid levels. To this day they remain unusually low. This is not inconsistent with claims that vitamin C can help to reduce uric acid levels.

Note that captive chimpanzees typically consume 0.8 grams to 1.6 grams of vitamin C per day, whereas for wild gorillas that number is roughly 4.5 grams per day.

barb said at July 22, 2010 7:43 AM:

I am experimenting with cherry and celery seed extract to combat my recent excruciating attack of gout. I have been under 20 carbs for 9 weeks and am stuck at 12 pounds weight loss. I resorted to taking antinflamitories about two weeks ago which coincides with my lack of weight loss. I've also noted that I am no longer in ketosis! This coincides with the cherry extract capsules. Help... it seems I can't win for losing (or not losing...)

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