Researchers identify three nutrients with major effects on blood pressure

10th August 2020 – by Paz García

Going to work on an egg may be a good idea after all, as new research from TwinsUK has found that key nutrients in certain foods – including eggs – are linked with lower blood pressure.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. An estimated 1.5 billion people will be affected by hypertension by 2025, and so researchers want to understand how we can reduce high blood pressure back to a healthy level.

Many previous studies have shown that certain foods can affect blood pressure, and the TwinsUK team wanted to explore this further and understand specifically which nutrients in foods are linked with blood pressure.

The team analysed blood pressure data and food frequency questionnaires of over 3,800 TwinsUK participants who don’t use blood pressure medication. The researchers also studied an additional group of identical twin pairs with large differences in blood pressure.

The team found 15 nutrients were associated with blood pressure, even after taking into account other factors such as age, sex and body mass index (BMI).

Three key nutrients however were linked with the largest effect on blood pressure:

1. Alcohol: This had the worst effect on blood pressure, and the more you drink, the higher your blood pressure.

2. Riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B2, this nutrient is found in milk and egg products and can reduce blood pressure.

3. Tryptophan: This nutrient is found in meat products and soybeans and can reduce blood pressure.

First author Panayiotis Louca explained the next steps for this research:

“Our results are further evidence that diet is closely linked with blood pressure. We now need clinical trials to test how different people respond to a modified diet and how it impacts blood pressure. ”

Senior author Cristina Menni said:

“Before we can encourage people to eat more of a certain food to reduce blood pressure, we need to understand how exactly different nutrients affect our blood vessels and blood pressure. Our work supports the need for further research to understand how we could use diet as a tool for preventing and treating hypertension. ”

Louca, P. et al. Dietary influence on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the TwinsUK cohort. Nutrients, 2020.

COVID-19 prevalence and severity higher in urban and most deprived areas

29th April 2020

COVID-19 is disproportionally more common and more severe in people living in urban areas and regions of higher poverty, a new study from the Department of Twin Research reports. 

These results come from the analysis of the health data logged by more than 2 million people over 24 days on the COVID Symptom Tracker app in the UK. 

The team also found that COVID-19 cases and severity has decreased since the lockdown began. 

These results illustrate how data from symptom tracking apps can be used to successfully monitor the pandemic over time, helping to identify areas that need more support and healthcare resources to cope. 

As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at King’s College London and healthcare science company ZOE developed the COVID Symptom Tracker app. More than two million UK users nationwide are now using it to report daily updates on symptoms, healthcare visits and COVID-19 testing results. 

The team studied 2,266,235 unique app users reporting daily on COVID-19 symptoms, hospitalisation, COVID-19 test outcomes, demographic information and pre-existing medical conditions over 24 days immediately following the introduction of major social distancing lockdown measures announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 23rd March 2020. 

On the link between COVID-19 and poverty, lead researcher Dr Cristina Menni said: 

“This could reflect that individuals in more deprived areas are more exposed or vulnerable to the virus.  It may be that they work in jobs requiring work out of the home, where they are more likely to be exposed to circulating virus. We know from previous research that deprivation is closely linked with increased health issues and disease burden; our results suggest that COVID-19 is no exception.” 

Dr Claire Steves, joint senior author said: 

“This finding is important for allocation of resources in this pandemic.  Areas with higher rates of poverty will need greater supply of PPE and more hospital capacity.  This is likely to continue to be important when the social distancing measures are eased.” 

The map below shows the identified hotspots in red:

The research paper with the full findings is available in non-peer reviewed archive format at the medRxiv site here

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