To lower blood pressure, eat these bacteria, study suggests

To lower blood pressure, eat these bacteria, study suggests | Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.

Aug. 4, 2014—Bless the beneficial bacteria.

Probiotic products, such as yogurt, fermented milk and supplements, contain tiny organisms—bacteria and yeast—that benefit health. Probiotics can be similar to or the same as bacteria already found in the body, especially in the gut.

Past research has shown that some probiotics regulate the movement of food through the intestine. They may help to treat digestive system diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. But new research published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension shows that regular probiotic consumption may have wider benefits—including helping to reduce blood pressure.

About the study

Researchers did a scientific review of nine randomized, controlled studies that involved 543 adults with normal and elevated blood pressure.

Among other things, they found that consuming probiotics lowered systolic blood pressure—the top number in a blood pressure reading—an average of 3.56 points and diastolic pressure—the bottom number—an average of 2.38 points.

Researchers also found that probiotics were more effective:

  • When higher doses and multiple types of bacteria were consumed
  • When taken for eight weeks or more
  • Among people with elevated blood pressure—readings of 130/85 or higher

Researchers don’t know exactly how probiotics help lower blood pressure. They suggest that probiotics may play a role in improving cholesterol, lowering blood sugar and regulating certain hormones, which would have the effect of lowering blood pressure.

This is promising, but researchers cautioned that these findings are preliminary. More work is needed before researchers can feel confident that doctors should prescribe probiotics to treat high blood pressure.

For a summary of the study, click here.

The take-home message
Talk with your doctor before adding probiotics to your diet, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) advises. Probiotics may not be appropriate for older people, people with an impaired immune system or those taking certain medications.

If you do decide to try probiotics, the AGA says:

  • Read the product’s label carefully. Some labels contain information about the types of probiotics included, along with the health conditions they’re designed to treat. Other products don’t contain this information, so getting proactive might mean calling the manufacturer for more information.
  • Use well-established companies. They’re more likely to produce safer, more effective probiotics.
  • Be careful with storage. As living organisms, probiotics must be stored properly or they’ll die. Check the package to see if the product needs to be refrigerated, and be sure to use these products before they expire.

For more information on what probiotics are and how they might work, click here.

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