Regularly consuming probiotics, or the “good” bacteria found in yogurt, kefir and supplements, may help control blood pressure, according to a new review of past studies.
Researchers found that consuming the proper amount of probiotics over at least two months appeared to modestly lower blood pressure.
Past studies have shown probiotics can have a positive effect on blood sugar, cholesterol and certain hormones - all of which can impact blood flow.
The new findings do not mean people should replace their blood pressure medication with probiotics and it is still unclear which strain or combination of strains might work best.
Normal blood pressure is a systolic reading (the upper number) of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic reading (the lower number) of less than 80 mm Hg. High blood pressure starts at 140/90 mm Hg and increases a person's risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disorders and other health problems.
For some people with high blood pressure the only effective treatment has been medication, but that means costs and possible side effects.
The new review, published in the journal Hypertension, combined the results of nine studies that randomly assigned participants to take probiotics or not. Seven of the trials were double-blind, meaning neither the participants nor the experimenters knew who received probiotics and who received a probiotic-free placebo until the end of the study. The different strains of probiotics were delivered in products like yogurt and milk. The studies included a total of almost 550 people.
The researchers found that on average, probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure by 3.56 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.38 mm Hg, compared to a placebo or no treatment.
Getting at least 100 billion colony-forming units of probiotics each day, the amount in a carton of some yogurts, seemed to be necessary for significant blood pressure improvements. And no change in blood pressure was seen among participants who were given probiotics for less than eight weeks.
The researchers noted that the effect of probiotics was strongest among people who already had elevated blood pressure.
Our gut is home to many bacteria and if increasing the amount of good bacteria can optimize health and prevent chronic diseases then that’s a good thing,” say experts.
The price of probiotic supplements varies, but a 30-day supply from the drugstore may cost about $30.
However, because probiotics only seem to have an effect under certain conditions in specific groups of people, it’s hard to know how to make recommendations to patients at this time.
What’s more, the fact that each study within this review was done using a different probiotic or combination of probiotics means, it is not possible to recommend a certain probiotic food or supplement.
Even so, if people with high blood pressure want to try probiotics as an adjunct to their regular blood pressure medication they can’t hurt, and they may even help.
Source: Hypertension, online July 21, 2014.
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