Milk and Reduced Risk for High Blood Pressure

A new National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute study showed that people who consumed more lowfat dairy products like fat free and lowfat milk had lower blood pressure, a major factor in stroke and heart attacks. Published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, this is an important finding for the sixty-five million Americans who are affected by high blood pressure.

Studying the habits of almost five thousand men and women, the researchers found that those who consumed more than three servings of milk and dairy products per day were 36 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those who ate the least amount of dairy, less than half a serving per day.

Lowfat dairy products, such as fat-free and lowfat milk, may be the best choices to reap the blood pressure benefits. Study participants who ate three servings of dairy a day that also limited their saturated fat intake were 54 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those who ate a low-saturated fat diet with less dairy.

Experts recommend three servings of fat-free or lowfat milk and other dairy products each day. Milk is packed with nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients that are often lacking in the diets of most Americans. The researchers suggest that it could be the mix of nutrients such as potassium or magnesium, rather than calcium, that has a beneficial effect on blood pressure.

This new research builds upon expert recommendations, such as the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines and the 2006 American Heart Association diet and lifestyle guidelines, that call attention to dairy's role in cardiovascular health.

Djousse L, Pankow JS, Hunt SC, Heiss G, Province MA, Kabagambe EK, Ellison RC. Influence of saturated fat and linolenic acid on the association between intake of dairy products and blood pressure. Hypertension. 2006;48:342-348.