Can a Low-Carb Diet Really Lower Blood Pressure?

Low-carb diets and the keto diet have been in controversy for decades.

It wasn’t so long ago that medical professionals saw fat as harmful, with high consumptions of fat thought to increase cholesterol and cause heart disease. However, this myth has long been debunked by research.

Not only does a low-carb diet lead to more weight loss[1] when compared to a low-fat diet, it also leads to lower blood pressure.

A Few Words on Blood Pressure

When your heart beats, what’s happening is that it pumps blood throughout the body to give it the oxygen and energy it needs. As the blood moves, it will push against the sides of blood vessels.

The amount and strength of pushing is your blood pressure. When it’s too high, this means that the blood is putting in extra strain on your arteries and your heart, which could lead to heart attacks and strokes.

According to the American Heart Association, over 74 million Americans have high blood pressure.

Since it’s hard to tell when you have high blood pressure, it often goes unnoticed and can lead to fatal problems down the road.

Hypertension

When high blood pressure is left unchecked, it can progress into hypertension, which means consistent blood pressure over 140/90 mm Hg.

While there are several methods to treat hypertension and high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy diet has been at the forefront by dieticians, doctors, and researchers alike.

Low-Carb Diets and Lower Blood Pressure

A study[2] from the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed a direct correlation between a low-carb diet and decreased blood pressure. This study compared a low-carb diet with a low-fat diet combined with a weight loss drug called Orlistat, which blocks fat absorption.

The first group followed a low-carb, ketogenic diet that consisted of less than 20 grams of carbs each day. The second group followed a low-fat diet (less than 30% of daily calories from fat) plus the Orlistat over 48 weeks.

The results showed that the low-carb diet group lost an average of 9.5% of their body weight, whereas the low-fat group lost an average of 8.5%.

The study revealed that both groups lost similar amounts of weight, the group on the low-carb diet had significantly better improvement in blood pressure than the group on the low-fat diet with Orlistat.

While researchers say that weight loss itself will cause a reduction in blood pressure, following a low-carb diet may reduce blood pressure even further.

How does a low carb diet reduce blood pressure?

One of the biggest contributors to high blood pressure is insulin resistance and high blood sugar. Some research shows that pathological changes in insulin and glucose metabolism can greatly affect the clinical and development course of hypertension.

Having chronically high blood sugar, triglycerides, and hyperinsulinemia are far more common in people with hypertension. One of the biggest contributors to all three of these conditions is high-carb intake, particularly refined sugars and grains.

Additionally, consuming too many sugary beverages like soda has also been shown to directly influence blood pressure[3], so be mindful of more than just carbs!

Cutting out these sweet drinks should be the first step in any hypertension treatment, and can also contribute to weight loss and lower blood sugar levels.

Related: Keto Diet Drink: What is Safe to Drink on the Keto Diet?

Increase Your Intake of Beneficial Minerals

If you’re concerned with having high blood pressure, you might also want to lend your focus on eating foods that are rich in macrominerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

While most medical professionals will recommend only reducing your sodium intake to reduce blood pressure, getting your fill of these minerals can also help.

Eat grass-fed dairy products like butter, cheese, and ghee

While also being keto-friendly, full-fat grass-fed dairy products like butter, cheese, and ghee contain plenty of vitamin K2, which contributes to the treatment of hypertension.

Preliminary research even shows that K2 may be one of the most important nutrients to include in a diet to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more[4].

By reducing vascular stiffness and arterial calcification, logic would suggest that vitamin K2 could help in preventing high blood pressure.

High serum calcium levels are connected to hypertension. Vitamin K2 is important to ensure that calcium is deposited into the bone where it belongs and not into the arteries. Calcium in the arteries can lead to stiffness and calcification, and thus, hypertension.

Final Thoughts

Plenty of research exists linking high blood pressure to negative health conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

Research may still be fairly new in connecting low-carb intake with lower blood pressure. However, the fact remains that a healthy diet is a useful tool in managing blood pressure.

If you’re one of many Americans battling high blood pressure, consult your physician to find the best plan to fight it.

More Readings:

Keto FAQ – 27 of The Most Common Keto Questions Answered

Does the Keto Diet Affect Cholesterol? 

Carb Blockers 101 – Do they Really Work on the Keto Diet?

References:

[1] Frederick F. Samaha, M.D., Nayyar Iqbal, M.D., Prakash Seshadri, M.D., Kathryn L. Chicano, C.R.N.P., Denise A. Daily, R.D., Joyce McGrory, C.R.N.P., Terrence Williams, B.S., Monica Williams, B.S., Edward J. Gracely, Ph.D., and Linda Stern, M.DMay 22, 2003. N Engl J Med 2003; 348:2074-2081. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa022637.

[2] Yancy, William S., et al. “A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet vs orlistat plus a low-fat diet for weight loss.” Archives of internal medicine 170.2 (2010): 136-145

[3] Chen L, Caballero B, Mitchell DC, Loria C, Lin PH, Champagne CM, Elmer PJ, Ard JD, Batch BC, Anderson CA, Appel LJ. Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with reduced blood pressure: a prospective study among United States adults. Circulation. 2010 Jun 8;121(22):2398-406. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.911164. Epub 2010 May 24.

[4] Johanna M. Geleijnse, Cees Vermeer, Diederick E. Grobbee, Leon J. Schurgers, Marjo H. J. Knapen, Irene M. van der Meer, Albert Hofman, Jacqueline C. M. Witteman; Dietary Intake of Menaquinone Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 134, Issue 11, 1 November 2004, Pages 3100–3105, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/134.11.3100.

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Jessica Cotzin is a freelance writer, web developer, and avid traveler. Born and raised in South Florida, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Multi-Media Journalism from Florida Atlantic University and currently resides in Miami Beach. Her passions lie in reading great literature and traveling the world, bumping blindly into new adventures.

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