Could yogurt help lower high blood pressure?

YOGURT may have a beneficial effect on women’s blood pressure, especially when part of a healthy diet. This was the conclusion of a study recently presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA’s) Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions in Phoenix, AZ. The researchers found that women who consumed five or more servings of yogurt a week had a lower risk of developing high blood pressure than similar women who hardly ever ate yogurt.
According to the AHA, high blood pressure – defined as higher than 140/90 mm/Hg – is potentially dangerous because it strains the heart, hardens arteries and raises the risk of brain haemorrhage and kidney problems. If not controlled, high blood pressure can result in heart and kidney disease, stroke and blindness. Previous studies have already shown that dairy products can reduce the risk of high blood pressure in at-risk adults, say the researchers, but few long-term studies have looked at the independent effect of yogurt alone.
“I believe that this is the largest study of its kind to date to evaluate the specific effects of yogurt on blood pressure,” says lead author Justin Buendia, a PhD candidate at Boston University School of Medicine, MA. For the study – which was funded by the National Dairy Council – Buendia and his colleagues used data from the first and second cohorts (NHS and NHS II) of the Nurses’ Health Study, where the participants were mainly women aged 25-55, and also from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), where the participants were mostly men.
Over 18-30 years of follow-up, 75,609 of the participants developed high blood pressure. After adjusting for other factors that might influence the link to high blood pressure, such as age, race, family history of high blood pressure, physical activity and diet, the researchers examined the link between yogurt and the development of high blood pressure in the three groups. They found that compared with women who ate fewer than one serving per month, women who ate five or more yogurt servings per week had a statistically significant 20% lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
A serving of yogurt is a cup, or around a scoop the size of a baseball. There was a much weaker link between regular yogurt consumption and high blood pressure in men, but this could be because the men in the groups they examined consumed far lower amounts of yogurt than the women, say the researchers. It does not necessarily mean that yogurt has no beneficial effect on men’s blood pressure. The team then looked at the women’s data again and focused on diet. They assigned a score to each participant, depending on how closely her diet matched one designed to lower blood pressure, called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts.

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