Dairy and Blood Pressure

Benefits of Dairy Product Consumption on Blood Pressure in Humans: A Summary of the Biomedical Literature

Gregory D. Miller, PhD, Douglas D. DiRienzo, PhD, Molly E. Reusser, BA, and David A. McCarron, MD

National Dairy Council, Rosemont, Illinois (G.D.M., D.D.D.), Division of Nephrology, Hypertension, and Clinical Pharmacology, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon (M.E.R., D.A.M.)

The inverse relationship between intake of dairy products and blood pressure levels was first suggested by several epidemiologic surveys in the early 1980’s that revealed low calcium intake in populations with increased prevalence of hypertension. Subsequent laboratory and clinical investigations provided further evidence of the association between calcium and blood pressure, but the results of these studies were often inconsistent due to variations in study design and methods, study participants and calcium sources. The recently published results of the large and carefully executed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Study, “DASH,” which demonstrated a dramatic blood-pressure lowering effect of diets rich in dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, addressed many of the issues contributing to the inconsistencies in the blood pressure-calcium data. In the following review, we discuss the evolution of the scientific evidence of the association between dietary calcium intake and blood pressure, the findings and significance of the DASH trial and the consensus that now exists among health professionals regarding the importance of adequate dairy product intake for optimal blood pressure regulation.

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