Hypertension (high blood pressure) is an important risk factor for several of the world’s leading causes of death, such as stroke and heart disease.
Consequently, researchers and clinicians continue to investigate its causes and, perhaps even more important, ways to maintain healthy blood pressure throughout life.
One of the most effective ways we currently know to prevent hypertension is consumption of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating pattern, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy foods, whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry, nuts, and beans.
The DASH diet is also high in fiber and follows national guidelines for sodium intake.
How the DASH eating plan actually works to lower blood pressure is not known, but many believe that its emphasis on dairy foods might be important – perhaps, at least in part, via the role that calcium plays in maintaining cardiovascular health.
Dairy foods are also excellent sources of high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals – all of which likely work together to keep us healthy.
Most studies designed to understand dairy’s contribution to the health-promoting effects of the DASH diet, however, have been conducted in populations that typically consume relatively high amounts of dairy products.
This fact makes it somewhat tricky to discern independent effects of calcium and dairy because almost all the former is obtained via consumption of the latter.
To help fill this research gap, a team of scientists led by Drs. Mohammad Talaei and Woon-Puay Koh (National University of Singapore and Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore) studied diet-health associations in ~37,000 Chinese men and women who historically have consumed relatively low amounts of dairy products.
You can find details of their findings in the February 2017 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.
Participants in this study were recruited as part of the Singapore Chinese Health Study between 1993 and 1998 and were followed until ~2010.
All the subjects were healthy with no history of hypertension or cardiovascular disease when they were enrolled, and typical dietary intake patterns were ascertained using a 165-item questionnaire.
Occurrence of newly-diagnosed hypertension was diagnosed by physicians and documented twice during the study.
Consumption of dairy foods was inversely correlated with risk of becoming hypertensive during the follow-up period.
Specifically, participants consuming the highest levels were 7% less likely to be diagnosed with hypertension than those consuming the least, and daily milk drinkers (mostly one glass per day) were 6% less likely than people consuming no milk.
Whereas there was an overall association between higher calcium consumption from dairy and lower risk for hypertension, no such correlation was evidence when nondairy calcium was considered.
These findings suggest that the effect of dairy foods on lowering blood pressure is likely not due simply to their calcium content.
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News source: ASN. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
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