Drinking milk may help women lower their risk of developing high blood pressure. New research, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, showed that women who consumed more low-fat dairy and had higher intakes of calcium and vitamin D from foods tended to have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure¹.
In the study of nearly 29 000 US women aged 45 years or older, the Harvard researchers found that women with the highest average intakes of low-fat dairy (above 2.0 servings per day) were 11 per cent less likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to women with the lowest average intake (less than 0.27 servings per day).
In Australia, 1 in 4 women have high blood pressure, and many don’t even know it. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and renal failure².
Dairy Australia dietitian Glenys Kerrins said, “Many people with high blood pressure think that reducing salt intake is the only dietary change they can make. But this research shows that eating more low-fat dairy foods can also have a meaningful impact on blood pressure.”
The researchers found a similar blood pressure benefit when they looked at the women’s intake of calcium and vitamin D. Interestingly, calcium and vitamin D supplements showed no positive effects on blood pressure. According to the study’s authors, previous trials have found greater blood pressure reductions from whole foods compared with supplements.
Dairy Australia dietitian Glenys Kerrins said, “The research findings suggest that the blood pressure benefits are related to the complete nutrient package of dairy foods, rather than its individual nutrients”.
These findings also support previous research showing milk drinkers have a reduced risk of high blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) study discovered that an eating plan rich in fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy produced similar blood pressure-lowering effects to that provided by medicine. “Women should aim for at least 3 serves of dairy foods each day. As well as being good for your blood pressure, dairy foods contain at least 10 essential nutrients,“ Ms Kerrins said.
- One serve of dairy is equal to a glass (250ml) of milk, or a 200g tub of yogurt or 2 slices (40g) of cheese.
- There is no ‘ideal’ blood pressure reading. A person is usually identified as having high blood pressure if it is above 140/90.
- Wang L, Manson JE, Buring JE, Lee IM, Sesso HD. Dietary intake of dairy products, calcium, and vitamin D and the risk of hypertension in middle-aged and older women. Hypertension. 2008;51:1-7.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s Health 2002. Canberra: AIHW; 2002.