Eating a small pot of yoghurt a day can cut the chance of having high blood pressure by a third, a study suggests
Naturally-occurring calcium can make blood vessels more supple, enabling them to expand slightly and keep pressure low, say dietitians.
American researchers who looked at the diets of some 2,000 volunteers, found those who regularly ate a little yoghurt were less likely to develop high blood pressure.
Specifically, those who took two per cent of their calories from yoghurt were 31 per cent less likely to develop high blood pressure over a 15 year period, than those who did not.
That equates to about 40 or 50 calories from yoghurt daily, or about half a typical 4.3oz (120g) individual pot.
Huifen Wang, a public health specialist at Minnesota University, presented the research at an American Heart Association meeting about high blood pressure on Wednesday.Rick Miller, a member of the British Dietetic Association, said calcium had “a plethora of effects on the body, including a hypo-tensive effect, meaning it helps to lower blood pressure.”
He explained: “Calcium is needed in muscle tissue, including blood vessel walls, and if there isn’t enough, they are not going to operate properly. In effect the calcium helps keep vessels supple.”
Calcium from dairy products like yoghurt and milk was particularly good for this, he said.
But taking too much calcium in pill form could have the opposite effect, he cautioned.
Studies indicate it can then be deposited on artery walls, leading to hardening of the arteries.
Mr Miller said were also suggestions that the ‘friendly’ bacteria in yoghurt could help lower blood pressure, although these were not conclusive.
Professor Gareth Beevers, a trustee of the Blood Pressure Association, said other studies had shown yoghurt to have a "small effect" on lowering blood pressure, but he said it should not be considered a way of counteracting it in people who already had hypertension.
"I would regard it as part of a healthy lifestyle - even if personally I can't stand the stuff," he said.
More than 8.5 million people are registered as having high blood pressure. People with the condition are three times more likely to develop heart disease and suffer strokes as people with normal blood pressure and twice as likely to die from these.
Patients are often put on drugs to lower their blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. In 2008, the NHS in England spent £83 million on beta-blockers alone