Studies show cheese and fermented milk products can lower blood pressure

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Could dairy products rival medication for the treatment of hypertension?
Could dairy products rival medication for the treatment of hypertension?

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A journal review and a new study point to dairy products being utilized to reduce blood pressure.

A study on the Italian Grana Padano PDO cheese shows it can aid in the fight against chronic blood pressure conditions such as hypertension.

And a review in the June issue of Journal of Dairy Science looks at studies on fermented milk products containing antihypertensive peptides.

Grana Padano studies

Researchers from the Hypertension Unit of Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital and Catholic University in Piacenza, Italy, say consumption of Grana Padano PDO can help lower blood pressure conditions due to the peptides (chains of amino acids) present in the cheese, which provide similar blood vessel relaxation effects as blood pressure prescription drugs.

"The effects are similar to what you would expect with antihypertensive medications,"​ said the study's lead author, Giuseppe Crippa, M.D., of Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital and Catholic University. 

"Adding a little Grana Padano to a healthy diet may provide clinically significant blood pressure lowering benefits."

Drop in blood pressure

Presented at this year's American Society of Hypertension's Annual Scientific Meeting, the randomized, placebo-controlled study provided participants with either an ounce per day of Grana Padano PDO 12-month aged cheese or a placebo for two months. 

The results showed a 7-8 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure and a 5-7 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure, depending on in-office monitoring versus automated monitoring systems.

No changes were seen in body mass index (BMI), blood lipids or blood sugar levels.

Fermented milk products

The invited review: Fermented milk as antihypertensive functional food, published in the June edition of the Journal of Dairy Science by L.M. Beltrán-Barrientos et al, looked at the available information related to the evaluation of fermented milk containing antihypertensive peptides by in vitro and in vivo studies.

The authors note that these studies are required before a fermented functional dairy product may be introduced to the market.

It states that although commercial fermented milks with antihypertensive effects exist, they are scarce and most are based on Lactobacillus helveticus​.

Opportunity for product development

The paper notes that several fermented milk products are on the market, including Ameal (Calpis Co., Tokyo, Japan), Calpis (Calpis Co.), and Evolus (Valio, Helsinki, Finland), among others.

The review says that a great opportunity is available for the development of functional dairy products with new lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that support heart health through blood pressure- and heart rate-lowering effects.

The authors note that while these products attribute their antihypertensive effect to the bioactive peptides present in the fermented milk, they also contain minerals such as potassium and calcium, which have been demonstrated to have a positive effect on blood pressure.

They say that more research on the subject is needed, but that the development of functional foods that support a healthy heart through lowering blood pressure offers new market opportunities.

Source: Journal of Dairy Science
“Invited review: Fermented milk as antihypertensive functional food”
Authors: L.M. Beltrán-Barrientos, A. Hernández-Mendoza, M.J. Torres-Llanez, A.F. González-Córdova, B. Vallejo-Córdoba

Source: Presentation at the American Society of Hypertension's Annual Scientific Meeting 2016
"Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo Controlled, Cross-over Study on the Antihypertensive Effect of Dietary Integration With Grana Padano PDO Cheese"
Author: G. Crippa

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