Nestlé scientists review the effects of probiotic milks on blood pressure

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Lausanne, Switzerland

Oct 14, 2013

Can eating yogurt or cultured sour milk help lower elevated blood pressure, a prevalent global health issue?

While previous studies in the literature have suggested that probiotic fermented milk possesses blood pressure-lowering properties, results have been inconsistent, probably as a result of differences in the sample population, the interventions used, and the study quality and size.

Scientists at the Nestlé Research Center (NRC), together with scientists at Soochow University, Suzhou, China, gathered and examined existing research to perform a meta-analysis and determine whether probiotic fermented milk has indeed any effect on blood pressure. A meta-analysis of 14 randomised controlled trials involving 702 participants showed that probiotic fermented milk lowered the blood pressure of pre-hypertensive and hypertensive individuals.

Scientists conducted an electronic search of PubMed and the Cochrane Library and databases up to March 2012, to find relevant studies. This initial search identified 235 articles which examined the effect of yoghurt, sour milk or fermented milk on blood pressure. The majority of these were excluded after a title and abstract scan of content, resulting in 27 articles which were retained for full-text review. 

Of these, 13 articles, which included a total of 14 trials, examined the effect of probiotic fermented milks specifically and did not measure acute effects alone. The trials, published between 1996-2010, included eight trials conducted in Europe and the remainder in Japan, 

The meta-analysis revealed that probiotic fermented milk, compared with a placebo, produced a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. Interestingly, the magnitude of the effect differed between Japanese and European studies, with the former showing a greater reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

The scientists noted that the average intake of dairy foods by the Japanese population is lower than that of Western populations. As such, trials may have significantly enhanced milk intake, especially fermented milk intake, of Japanese study participants, resulting in a more substantial reduction in blood pressure in the Japanese trials.

Several studies have examined the capacity of bio-actives in fermented milk to lower blood pressure, but more large-scale trials are needed to confirm a role for live probiotic microorganisms in such effects. 

The present meta-analysis is another example of how NRC is furthering knowledge about the effect of food ingredients on cardiovascular health. Last year, a Cardiovascular Research Symposium in China, led by NRC Beijing and the Chinese Society of Cardiology, was held to examine how specific nutrients might be used to address cardiovascular disease. More specifically, international experts discussed how focused nutrition research could help to tackle problems such as high cholesterol in the blood.

Article reference:

Jia-Yi Dong, Ignatius M. Y. Szeto, Kimmo Makinen, Qiutao Gao, Junkuan Wang, Li-Qiang Qin, and Youyou Zhao; British Journal of Nutrition 2013: The effect of probiotic fermented milk on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.

Related information:

British Journal of Nutrition

Nestlé Research Center events