DALLAS— Making heart-healthy changes to traditional Chinese cuisine can lead to a noticeable drop in diners’ blood pressure. Specifically, the new study finds that reducing salt in Chinese food can significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Previous studies have also shown that reducing salt intake is one of the easiest changes people can make on their own to lower their blood pressure.
“Compared to the nutritional composition of a typical Chinese diet in urban China, our heart-healthy traditional Chinese cuisine diet halved the sodium from 6,000 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day. , reduced fat intake, and doubled dietary fiber. It also increased protein, carbohydrates, and potassium,” says the study’s first author, Yanfang Wang, Ph.D., a nutritionist and research professor at Peking University Clinical Research Institute, in a Press release.
The Chinese diet is becoming increasingly unhealthy
Researchers say the Chinese make up more than a fifth of the world’s population. It’s safe to say even more to eat a version of Chinese food once in a while. However, the study also reveals that rates of cardiovascular disease are increasing among this segment of the population, just like the others. One of the driving factors has been the unhealthy changes in the Chinese diet over the years.
According to a 2012 Chinese National Nutrition Survey, there were significant declines in consumption of grains (34%), tubers and legumes (80%) and fruits and vegetables (15%) among Chinese. Meanwhile, consumption of meat (162%), eggs (233%) and edible oil (132%) has exploded.
“Chinese people living in the United States and elsewhere often maintain a traditional Chinese diet, which is very different from a Western diet,” says study director Yangfeng Wu, MD, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and clinical research sciences in Beijing. University Institute for Clinical Research. “Healthy Western diets such as DASH and Mediterranean have been developed and proven to help lower blood pressure, however, so far no heart-healthy diets have been developed to fit in with traditional Chinese cuisine. .”
Drop in blood pressure by 10 points!
In the new study, researchers followed 265 Chinese adults with an average age of 56, all of whom had systolic blood pressure (the highest figure) above 130 mm/Hg. Nearly half of this group was taking at least one medication for high blood pressure.
The participants all came from the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Chengdu, all of which have their own regional cuisine: Shangdong, Huaiyang, Cantonese and Szechuan, respectively.
While conforming to these regional flavor profiles, the team modified the local dishes the participants ate to be more nutritious and less dependent on sodium. After eating their standard diet for seven days, the team replaced half of the study group with heart-healthy Chinese meals for 28 days. The rest of the group continued to eat their regular meals with more salt.
Researchers measured each person’s blood pressure each week during the study and also weighed food ingredients to calculate nutrient intake for each meal. The team also collected urine samples from each participant to analyze sodium and potassium levels.
Overall, participants on the heart-healthy Chinese diet lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 10 mm/Hg. Their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) dropped by 3.8 mm/Hg compared to the standard Chinese diet group.
The heart healthy group also ate more carbs (8%) and protein (4%) and less fat (11%). Fiber (14 grams), potassium (1,573 mg), magnesium (194 mg) and calcium (413 mg) all increased on average, while sodium levels were about half that of the group at normal diet (2836 mg).
Healthier foods at an affordable price?
Although previous surveys have found that one of the biggest issues with healthy eating is often taste, the researchers in this study found that flavor and taste preferences in each diet group were quite similar. .
What’s more, the team discovered that modifying traditional Chinese food to be more nutritious didn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, the average price of preparing a heart-healthy Chinese diet was only 60 cents more per day than normal, saltier meals.
The results also indicate a significant drop in heart problems if consumers continue to follow a heart-healthy diet. The risk of cardiovascular disease fell by 20%, while the risk of heart failure fell by 28% and the risk of death from all causes fell by 13%.
“Healthcare professionals should recommend a heart-healthy diet with low sodium and high potassium, fiber, vegetables and fruits as first-line treatment for their patients with hypertension,” said Wu said. “Because traditional Chinese food culture and cooking methods are often used wherever Chinese people live, I think a heart-healthy Chinese diet and the principles we used to develop the diet would also be helpful. for Chinese Americans.”
“The results of this trial are truly impressive and provide a healthy eating roadmap for people consuming a variety of Chinese cuisines – Shangdong, Huaiyang, Cantonese or Szechuan cuisines. Major public health efforts are warranted to “span” across China to achieve population-wide reductions in blood pressure,” adds Lawrence J. Appel, volunteer expert at the American Heart Association, MD, MPH, FAHA.
Findings appear in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Traffic.