If you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), you may find that a diet high in whole-grains, such as oats or wholemeal bread, is as effective as taking anti-hypertensive medications, Scottish scientists reveal in an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Controlling your blood pressure considerably reduces your risk of developing several diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysm, and renal failure.

The authors explain that we should seriously consider ways of including whole-grain wheat and oat-based recipes in our Christmas holiday meals.

The researchers, from The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, College of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, wanted to test the theory in "a well-designed clinical intervention trial" which points to growing evidence of the benefits of whole-grain foods when looking at the diets and health of various populations worldwide.

This latest study, which included over 200 volunteers, demonstrated that if you ingest three portions of whole-grain foods per day, your risk of high blood pressure is considerably reduced, which in turn lowers your chances of developing diseases linked to hypertension.

Some of the study-participants were given three servings of whole-grain foods each day, in the form of wheat, or both wheat with oats, while the rest received refined cereals and white bread (made of refined flour).

In both the whole-grain and refined-grain groups, the participants were encouraged to eat what they normally ate apart from consuming their apportioned servings.

Study leader, Dr Frank Thies, said:
    "We observed a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 5-6 mm Hg in the volunteers who ate the whole-grain foods, and this effect is similar to that you might expect to get from using blood pressure-lowering drugs.

    This drop in systolic blood pressure could potentially decrease the incidence of heart attack and stroke disease by at least 15 and 25% respectively.

    It's also good news for the food industry and especially for Scottish food producers."
The study was funded by the Scottish Government and the UK Food Standards Agency.

"Effect of increased consumption of whole-grain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle-aged persons: a randomized controlled trial"
Paula Tighe, Garry Duthie, Nicholas Vaughan, Julie Brittenden, William G Simpson, Susan Duthie, William Mutch, Klaus Wahle, Graham Horgan, and Frank Thies
Am J Clin Nutr vol. 92 no. 4 733-740 doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29417

Written by Christian Nordqvist