A low-carbohydrate diet may be more effective to lower blood pressure than the weight-loss drug orlistat combined with a low-fat diet. In a year-long study, investigators at Duke University Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C. compared the effects of the two weight loss strategies in 146 overweight men and women who had obesity-related health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol and arthritis as well as high blood pressure. One group of participants followed a low-carb diet and the other combined orlistat with a low-fat diet. Over the course of the study, participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their body weight, but 47 percent of those on the low-carb diet were able to reduce or discontinue medication they took for high blood pressure; only 21 percent of those in the other group were able to do the same. Exactly how the low-carb diet achieved those results isn't known yet. The study was published in the Jan. 25, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
My take? These findings are very interesting. If confirmed, we need to learn what it is about a low-carb diet that helps lower blood pressure so much more effectively than losing the same amount of weight with another strategy, or consider why a high-carb diet might raise blood pressure. In addition to weight loss, you may be able to lower high blood pressure by quitting smoking if that's an issue, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, cutting back on salt (processed foods are the biggest sources of sodium in today's western diet) and practicing relaxation methods.