PARIS—A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure (BP) in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD), according to data presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual meeting.

The results also show that the mean fruit and vegetable intake needed to achieve target BP is about 580 grams per day.

“The main take-away message is that an achievable, daily intake of fruit and vegetables has a significant beneficial effect on blood pressure, irrespective of health status, which has potentially huge implications for the population at large and overall public health,” Vernon Heazlewood, MD, senior staff specialist at Caboolture Hospital Queensland Health in Caboolture , Australia, told Renal & Urology News. “The message is simple yet profound in its health impact.”

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Dr. Heazlewood and colleagues conducted a post-hoc analysis of the EUROACTION study, which tested the use of a preventive cardiology program addressing lifestyle and medical risk factor management in patients with CHD and high-risk patients in eight European countries.

Their analysis aimed primarily to determine if there was a relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and blood pressure outcomes as continuous variables.

“The benefit of diet and lifestyle in assisting blood pressure control has been confirmed in prior studies but these trials have been performed in healthy individuals under strict conditions and in short time frames – usually from two to six months,” Dr. Heazlewood pointed out. 

“Furthermore, none has assessed the impact of fruit and vegetable consumption alone nor examined the effect of a more realistic dietary fruit and vegetable target of five or more portions per day (for a total of more than 400 grams per day) in lieu of at least eight to nine portions a day.”

The analysis included 942 patients younger than 80 years who had been hospitalized with acute coronary syndrome or angina.

The desirable BP target was 140/90 mm Hg (or 130/85 mm Hg in individuals with diabetes) and the fruit and vegetable target was 400 grams or more per day. Participants were urged to increase their intake of oily fish, limit their alcohol intake, and exercise regularly. 

Results showed that higher daily fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with lower diastolic and systolic pressures.

The mean daily fruit and vegetable consumption in those patients achieving the BP target was 583 grams compared with 536 grams in those individuals not reaching their BP target, for a mean difference of 47 grams per day.

In patients with uncontrolled systolic pressure (defined as a pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher), the mean daily fruit and vegetable intake was 541 grams compared with 577 grams in individuals those with systolic pressure below 140 mm Hg, for a mean difference of 36 grams per day. Similarly for uncontrolled diastolic pressure (defined as a diastolic pressure higher than 90 mm Hg ), the mean daily fruit and vegetable intake was 485 grams compared with 576 grams with controlled diastolic pressure, for a mean difference of 91 grams.

Additionally, the results showed that individual study sites where a fruit and vegetable target consumption was achieved were more likely to reach blood pressure targets.

Dr. Heazlewood emphasized that the fact that the study was a post-hoc analysis may represent a limitation.  Also, validation and “regularity” of fruit and vegetable consumption as well as the extent of compliance with drug treatment were not known.

He added, however, that the findings supporting an association of fruit and vegetable consumption on blood pressure outcomes are consistent with the literature showing similar findings in healthy individuals.