Try nutrients before drugs

  • 21 May 2015
  • Reading time 13 mins
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If you take antacids, anti-depressants, statins, diabetic or high blood pressure medication did you know there are foods and nutrients that work better? It sounds almost unbelievable, but the chances are even your doctor doesn’t know about them.


High blood pressure
High blood pressure medication is designed to lower your blood pressure and the best drugs achieve about a 10 point lowering. Some people are given more that one drug to achieve a bigger effect but these drugs come with considerable side-effects and much less impressive evidence than you’d think for actually reducing cardiovascular deaths. Diuretics, for example, knock out B12 which increases dementia risk, and magnesium, which ironically increases heart attack risk. You want your blood pressure below 140/90 and ideally around 120/80.

You can achieve the same or an even better reduction in blood pressure with a vitamin, a mineral and a diet change.

The most effective vitamin for lowering blood pressure is vitamin C. A meta-analysis of 29 trials confirms that a mere 500mg of vitamin C a day lowers high blood pressure by 5 points in eight weeks. This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirms this important effect of vitamin C. However, higher doses are even better. In one study, those given 2 grams of vitamin C a day for 30 days had a 10 point drop in systolic blood pressure. This is comparable to the effect you can get with hypertensive drugs, but without the side-effects. I take 2 grams of vitamin C every day.

In fact, the only side-effects are positive. Vitamin C has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce arterial thickening. It is also an anti-inflammatory and may help, together with vitamin E, to stop the oxidation, or damage, of cholesterol. A recent study of almost 60,000 people in Japan reports that vitamin C intake is strongly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, especially in women, cutting risk by a third. Another reports that vitamin C, with vitamin E, slows down atherosclerosis. Many diet studies also find that the higher your dietary intake of vitamin C the lower your risk. So, it’s an obvious choice for anyone with cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium has a direct and immediate blood-pressure lowering effect comparable to medication. This is because the muscle cells lining your arteries relax when they contain more magnesium than calcium. You can achieve this in two ways. By increasing your intake of magnesium or blocking the ability of calcium to get into cells. Calcium channel blockers are one of the most commonly prescribed hypertensive drugs but they have side-effects. Long-term risk more than doubles risk for breast cancer, according to a study in the American Medical Association’s journal, Internal Medicine.

In contrast, supplementing 300mg of magnesium a day produces an average drop in systolic blood pressure of 18.7 points, and in diastolic blood pressure of 11 points, if taken for six months, in people with raised blood pressure (above 155). This finding was reported in a meta-analysis of seven studies of 135 people with high blood pressure and is a highly significant change, more so than you would expect from the best drugs. Magnesium also helps lower cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) and is consistently associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular deaths and heart attacks. It also relieves insomnia, muscle tension and helps stabilise blood sugar levels.

Very few multivitamins contain anything like enough magnesium. My Optimum Nutrition Formula is relatively high in magnesium, providing 155mg in two tablets, but even that is not enough. So you’ll need to supplement extra magnesium to achieve 300mg a day. Be careful to check the ‘elemental’ magnesium in the supplement. A supplement might say magnesium chelate 300mg, but only 10% of the supplement is magnesium, so the elemental magnesium would be 30mg. This is written in the small print. Magnesium ascorbate is a good choice because the carrier, vitamin C, also lowers high blood pressure. Pumpkin seeds and greens are the best dietary sources of magnesium.

The diet that lowers blood pressure most effectively is a low GL diet. This is because learning to eat in a way that stabilises your blood sugar levels means your body makes less insulin. Insulin affects the kidneys in a way that increases blood pressure. Here’s an example of what happened to Phil’s blood pressure, measured daily, following my low GL diet.

Blood Pressure

As you can see both his systolic and diastolic blood pressure completely normalised in five months. I explain how to eat in this way in my Low GL Diet Bible but you might want to read Say No to Heart Disease as this also explains other ways to lower blood pressure naturally. A low GL diet is consistently associated with reducing risk of heart attack and cardiovascular deaths.

High cholesterol
Cholesterol-lowering statin medication is prescribed to millions of people but, unless you’ve actually had heart disease, there is no good evidence that taking them is going to reduce your risk of cardiovascular death or extend your lifespan. However, one in ten get side-effects and one in 50 get diabetes as a result. There are two kinds of cholesterol – LDL, the so-called ‘bad’ kind that you want to lower, and HDL, the good kind that can remove unwanted or damaged cholesterol from your arteries.

Increasing the proportion of your cholesterol that is HDL is the most important way to reduce your risk of a heart attack. You want one third of your total cholesterol to be HDL. You might be surprised to find that taking niacin (B3), a simple B vitamin, is ......

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