Potassium and calcium have positive effects on blood pressure. Dairy products, vegetables and fruit are good for the heart.
Van Mierlo studied the effects of food components - such as vitamins, minerals, small proteins, folic acid and polyphenols - on blood pressure. Potassium and calcium seemed to play major roles. Both these minerals can lower blood pressure. 'Increasing the calcium intake by 1.2 grams per day can lower the minimum pressure by an average of 1 point, and the maximum pressure by an average of 2 points', says van Mierlo.
Small reductions, big effects
Published sources analyzed by the PhD candidate show that potassium intakes worldwide lie between 1.7 and 3.7 grams per day, whereas the recommended intake is 4.7 grams. Van Mierlo attributes this partly to the consumption of a lot of processed products which often have too much bad sodium salts and too little good salts.
Therefore, there is a lot to be gained by eating better food, especially vegetables and fruit. 'If people consume the recommended 4.7 grams of potassium per day, blood pressure can be lowered by about 1.7 to 3.2 points, says van Mierlo.
She admits that these are relatively small reductions, but the effects can nevertheless be big. 'High blood pressure is a major risk factor in cardiovascular diseases', she says. 'By lowering the average blood pressure of the population by a few points, instances of cardiovascular diseases can be reduced greatly.' The PhD candidate says that about three quarters of the population have blood pressures above the ideal maximum pressure point of 120 and minimum pressure point of 80. 'This big group has much to gain through food', she adds.