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Home » Yogurt May Help Manage High Blood Pressure, Study Says

Yogurt May Help Manage High Blood Pressure, Study Says

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Key Takeaways

  • Looking at people with hypertension, researchers found frequent consumption of yogurt was beneficial for blood pressure.
  • Dairy contains essential minerals that are key for blood pressure regulation, but yogurt also has beneficial bacteria that makes it particularly helpful.
  • When adding yogurt to your diet, be sure to choose options with low sugar, because that is better for your heart.

Dietary choices are a major part of managing high blood pressure—also called hypertension. A new study in the International Dairy Journal suggests yogurt may be particularly beneficial. In fact, researchers found that it is particularly helpful for those already dealing with hypertension.

About the Study

Researchers looked at 915 people with hypertension who are taking part in a long-term study on aging, including the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline that might be related to lifestyle habits. For about 40 years, participants provided information on health data like cholesterol, glucose levels, and blood pressure, as well as food tracking logs.

They found that eating yogurt, ideally on a daily basis, is associated with lower blood pressure overall. This finding was especially true for those already dealing with hypertension.

Alexandra Wade, PhD

Just having yogurt on its own is associated with lower blood pressure, and for those who consumed yogurt often, the results were even stronger.

— Alexandra Wade, PhD

Even small amounts seem to have an effect, as long as they are consumed regularly rather than on an occasional basis, according to the study’s lead author, Alexandra Wade, PhD, a researcher in nutrition and cognition at the University of South Australia.

“Just having yogurt on its own is associated with lower blood pressure, and for those who consumed yogurt often, the results were even stronger,” she says, adding that blood pressure readings for the yogurt eaters were nearly seven points lower than those who did not have the food at all.

Global Issue

A major part of undertaking the study was to find more ways to affect blood pressure on a global scale. They were particularly interested in changes that would be affordable and accessible, according to Dr. Wade.

Worldwide, about 1.39 billion people suffer from hypertension, or around 31% of adults, according to a February 2020 report in Nature Reviews Nephrology. Prevalence is higher in low- and middle-income countries but still at about 28% of adults in high-income countries.

Globally, lifestyle risk factors are the same no matter where you live. The risk factors that researchers noted include high sodium intake, low potassium intake, obesity, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and poor quality diet.

The authors of that report added that hypertension is the leading modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death worldwide. That means if you can address hypertension effectively, it has a ripple effect that significantly reduces chronic health risks.

Why Yogurt Stands Apart

In terms of why yogurt, in particular, seemed to be so advantageous for blood pressure, Dr. Wade says part of the reason is likely because dairy products contain a range of micronutrients. These include calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

For example, the American Heart Association notes that foods rich in potassium can lessen the effects of sodium. The more of those foods you eat, such as yogurt, the more sodium is excreted through the urinary system.

Those foods include avocados, dark leafy greens like spinach, mushrooms, cantaloupe, and potatoes. Also on that list is milk and yogurt, with the latter standing apart because of its other properties, says Dr. Wade.

“Yogurt includes these minerals and also contains beneficial bacteria that promote the release of certain proteins that have been associated with lower blood pressure,” she says.

Read the Labels

Although yogurt can have a protective effect, that does not mean all yogurt brands and types are the same. Although added sugar was not part of the recent study, previous research in JAMA Internal Medicine has linked high sugar consumption with cardiovascular disease risk.

Lyn Steffen, PhD

Consumption of added sugar creates a biological environment in which excess sugar is converted into fatty acids, and those get stored as triglycerides and lipids, usually in the abdomen.

— Lyn Steffen, PhD

Part of that mechanism may be the way sugar contributes to fat distribution in the body, suggests a study in the European Journal of Cardiology, which associates added sugar in all foods to increased belly fat, also known as abdominal adiposity. Fat in that area has been connected to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.

“Consumption of added sugar creates a biological environment in which excess sugar is converted into fatty acids, and those get stored as triglycerides and lipids, usually in the abdomen,” says Lyn Steffen, PhD, director of public health nutrition at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Because it is a dairy product, yogurt will contain some level of natural sugar, but checking labels to find options that are unsweetened and have the lowest sugar amount is helpful. Also, keeping sugar controlled in general is a good idea for heart health.

What This Means For You

If you have high blood pressure, regularly consuming yogurt can be beneficial and may impact your blood pressure readings. However, it is important to choose a low-sugar option if you can. If you are considering adding yogurt to your regular eating plan, talk to a healthcare provider to ensure this choice is right for you.

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