Low-fat dairy may lower blood pressure

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Low-fat dairy may lower blood pressure

A new study in the Netherlands has shown that older people who eat more low-fat dairy products are less likely to develop high blood pressure. The study followed 2245 people aged 55 or older over six years, to see if there was a clear relationship between dairy products consumed and overall risk of high blood pressure.

Participants were grouped into five categories – “low-fat dairy”, “high-fat dairy”, “milk and milk products”, “cheese and cheese products”, and “fermented dairy”. The study found that people who consumed more quantities of dairy, particularly low-fat dairy, had a much lower risk of high blood pressure over 2 years. When followed up again after 6 years, the risk reduction was lower but still present for people who ate more low-fat dairy.

Consumption of milk and milk products seemed to be related to keeping blood pressure lowered, whereas consuming cheese and cheese products showed no such relationship.

This is not the first time that consumption of dairy products has been found to lower risk of high blood pressure. A number of studies have shown this relationship, although the precise way in which dairy can be said to lower blood pressure is not known. There are numerous theories suggesting the “active ingredient” in dairy that lowers blood pressure – proteins, peptides, or minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium – but none of these have been demonstrated conclusively in research.

It is interesting to note that the reduced risk of high blood pressure declined over time, suggesting that dairy products may only delay rather than prevent the onset of high blood pressure.

Although this research is interesting, not enough is known at this point to recommend eating or drinking more dairy for your blood pressure. Low-fat dairy products can be a part of a healthy diet. Eating products that are lower in fat (and lower in saturated fat) will help you keep to a healthy weight and may also lower your risk of high cholesterol, so dairy should form an important part of your daily diet.

Source: Engberink MF, et al. Inverse association between dairy intake and hypertension: the Rotterdam Study, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009; 89: 1-7

Topics: Research, Lifestyle, High blood pressure

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