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Study: 'Portfolio diet' lowers cholesterol, blood pressure

The effect was two percent stronger than the DASH diet, commonly suggested for people with high blood pressure.

By Stephen Feller
Study: 'Portfolio diet' lowers cholesterol, blood pressure
The vegetarian "portfolio diet" was designed to lower cholesterol, but covers a second contributing factor of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure significantly. Photo by marilyn barbone/Shutterstock

TORONTO, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- A diet developed to lower cholesterol also lowers blood pressure, and the diet has a greater effect than another commonly recommended for lowering blood pressure, researchers reported in a new study.

The "portfolio diet" combines a range of foods previous research has shown lower cholesterol, such as mixed nuts, soy, plant sterols found in vegetable oils and leafy vegetables, and viscous fiber such as oats, barley and eggplant.

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Researchers in the study compared the portfolio diet to the dietary approach to stopping hypertension, or DASH diet, which emphasizes fruit, vegetables and whole grains, reduces consumption of meat and dairy, and cuts out snack foods altogether. The DASH diet is already known to be effective at lowering blood pressure.

"Dietary approaches have been found to be as effective as the starting dose of the average single blood pressure medication," said Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutritional sciences and medicine at the University of Toronto, in a press release. "Overall, research has shown that plant-based diets emphasizing foods higher in protein, oil and fiber reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke."

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Researchers randomly asked 241 people with high cholesterol to eat either a DASH diet or dietary portfolio for 24 weeks, evaluating their blood pressure at 0-, 12- and 24-week points during the study.

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The DASH diet had higher compliance rates among the 82 participants who followed it, but the portfolio diet reduced blood pressure two percent more than DASH's five- to 10-millimeter reductions.

"[This study] fills in yet another area we often worry about," Jenkins said. "We can now say the dietary portfolio is ideal for reducing overall risk of cardiovascular disease."

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The study is published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases.

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