A new study published in the January 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine journal compared two diets and evaluated the effects on blood pressure and weight loss.
Researchers set out to compare the effectiveness of two different weight loss therapies available to the general public. They compared a low carbohydrate diet to a low fat diet plus orlistat. (Orlistat is a drug designed to prevent the absorption of dietary fat. Brand names include Xenical and Alli.)
Participants were selected at the Department of Veterans Affairs primary care clinics in Durham, North Carolina. The 146 participants received instructions and followed either a low carbohydrate diet or a low fat diet with orlistat and were monitored for 48 weeks. Some of the main factors analyzed included body weight, blood pressure, fasting serum lipid, and glycemic parameters.
Study results found weight loss to be similar between the two groups at approximately 9% body weight. Researchers found the low carbohydrate diet resulted in a lower blood pressure for participants when compared to the low fat diet with orlistat. The low carb diet lowered systolic (top number) blood pressure on average 5.9 mm Hg and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure 4.5 mm Hg.
HDL Cholesterol and triglyceride levels improved for individuals on each diet, while LDL cholesterol improved only for those on the low fat plus orlistat diet. Glycemic parameters, such as glucose, insulin, and hemoglobin A1C only improved for low carbohydrate diet participants. Although it's worth noting that the difference between groups was not statistically significant.
Two other studies looking at this same issue (weight loss and blood pressure) were published in the same issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine - the DASH Diet and a physician-supervised plan.
Researchers analyzed the DASH Diet alone and when combined with an exercise and weight managements plan and the effect on blood pressure. When the DASH Diet was combined with a weight management and exercise plan it resulted in a 16.1 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure versus an 11.2 mm Hg drop with the DASH diet alone. The average weight loss over a 4 month period for individuals following the DASH diet with an exercise/weight management plan was 19 pounds versus less than 1 pound for the diet alone.
The third option researchers examined was an Internet weight-management program versus a physician-managed program. This study looked at extremely obese individuals and included a liquid diet component, structured diet, behavioral counseling, and diet medications. Results show the intensive physician-managed program to be more successful with 31 percent of participants losing more than 5 percent of their body weight versus just 9 percent of the Internet group losing more than 5 percent body weight.
The main thing to take away from all this research is that you have options when it comes to weight loss plans and strategies to lower blood pressure. Pick a plan you can stick with for the long term. Consistent follow through is what leads to results.