Researchers creating a map of human metabolism have found a connection between certain compounds in urine and incidence of high blood pressure in four developed countries around the world.
In this new study, urine samples from 4,630 people from the United States, Britain, Japan and China were analyzed for metabolic byproducts (metabolites) of diet and lifestyle that may explain differences in blood pressure.
In particular, formic acid - a byproduct of salt metabolism in the kidney - stood out as being present at high levels in people with higher blood pressure. High levels of formic acid may be caused by high intake of salty foods.
People with high blood pressure also had higher levels of the amino acid alanine which is found in meat and other animal proteins.
As with other studies, this research supports the best-known cause of high blood pressure as high salt intake. It also shows that a diet high in meat may be contributing to high blood pressure on a global scale.
While little is known about the relationship between metabolites, diet and blood pressure, researchers are certain that a diet rich in vegetables and minerals like calcium can lower blood pressure.
Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people have high blood pressure, defined as a reading of 140/90 or higher, making it a major cause of stroke, heart disease and kidney failure.
For more information on how your diet affects blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease, check out Leslie Beck's Foods that Fight Disease.
This study was published on April 20, 2008 in the journal Nature.
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