Although dietary and nutrient interventions have been extensively studied as a means of improving arterial stiffness, to our knowledge no systematic analysis of the data has been conducted.

The aim of the current study was to systematically review the human clinical trial data and qualitatively examine the efficacy of dietary and nutrient interventions in the treatment of arterial stiffness.

We systematically searched multiple databases until July 2010 for relevant randomized controlled human clinical trials of common dietary and nutrient interventions in the treatment of arterial stiffness. Located studies were subject to strict inclusion criteria and objectively assessed for scientific quality.

Of the 75 relevant studies located, we considered 38 studies to be appropriate for review. Results revealed support for intakes of omega-3 (n-3) fish oils (Cohen's d = 0.21-0.81) and soy isoflavones (Cohen's d = 0.35-0.39) in the treatment of arterial stiffness. There was limited but consistent evidence to suggest that salt restriction (Cohen's d = 0.28-0.37) as well as consumption of fermented-milk products (Cohen's d = 0.15-0.33) that contain bioactive peptides improved arterial stiffness. The evidentiary support for intakes of vitamins, micronutrients, and herbal medicines was insufficient. Limited but consistent evidence suggested that caffeine intake acutely increased arterial stiffness (Cohen's d = 0.34-0.51).

Current evidence from several small studies suggests that omega-3 and soy isoflavone supplementation provides an effective means of reducing arterial stiffness. There was little research that explored intakes of herbal medicines or micronutrients in the treatment of arterial stiffness, and this remains an area of potential research.