Yogurt may help prevent hypertension as part of a healthy diet, an observational study suggested.
People who ate at least the equivalent of one serving every three days were 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who ate no yogurt at all, Huifen Wang, PhD, of Tufts University in Boston, and colleagues found.
An even stronger effect was seen among individuals who were not taking antihypertensive drugs, according to their analysis of the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort reported at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research meeting in Washington, D.C.
"Yogurt is a nutrient-dense, low-fat dairy product," the group noted. "Higher yogurt intake, as part of a healthy diet pattern, may be beneficial for blood pressure control and hypertension prevention."
That finding reinforces the known role of low-fat dairy products in reducing blood pressure, Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, chair of the AHA nutrition committee, commented in an interview with MedPage Today.
The association supports the DASH diet recommendation of two to three servings of low-fat dairy per day.
"I would encourage my patients to choose fat-free or low-fat yogurt and to watch the amount of added sugars that are in the yogurt to keep the calories down," Johnson said. "
However, "when we talk about adding heart healthy foods we always want to think about what will they replace in the diet, not necessarily adding them on top of your existing diet in order to maintain a healthy weight," she cautioned.
Wang's group studied 2,197 adults in the offspring cohort of the Framingham Heart Study who did not have high blood pressure at baseline. Participants answered dietary questions and were followed for blood pressure along with other measures in the longitudinal study.
On the baseline food-frequency questionnaire, 44 percent of the participants reported that they ate yogurt at least once a month.
During the 14 years of follow-up, blood pressures rose and 913 of the participants developed hypertension.
Yogurt intake rose too, and those with high intake — more than 2 percent of their daily calories from yogurt — were less likely to develop hypertension.
The odds ratio of incident hypertension was 0.69 compared with individuals who didn't eat yogurt, with a significant 95 percent confidence interval of 0.54 to 0.87 after adjustment for demographic and lifestyle factors and cholesterol-lowering medication use.
Systolic blood pressure rose less in the high-consumption group as well — by 0.19 mmHg less than among nonconsumers. Diastolic pressures didn't correlate with yogurt consumption.
"On a population-wide basis a small lowering can have a large impact, although on an individual basis that may seem small," said Johnson, a professor of nutrition and medicine at the of the University of Vermont in Burlington.
That link with systolic change actually strengthened when excluding individuals on antihypertensive medication at follow-up.
Adjustment for BMI and change in BMI didn't eliminate the significance of any of the findings.
Although the study adjusted for many of the potentially confounding factors, this type of correlational study can never entirely eliminate the possibility of additional unmeasured confounding if people who consume more yogurt have a more heart-healthy lifestyle, Johnson noted.
Also, the high-consuming group wasn't averaging more than half to a third of a serving of yogurt per day.
"What we want to look for is if there is a stepwise lowering of blood pressure with higher intake," she pointed out, although "this could be just part of total dairy intake."
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