Low-fat milk may help combat hypertension

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — A new study published on Tuesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that people who drink low-fat milk may be at a lower risk of developing hypertension, which is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Researchers at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, in cooperation with Harvard University analyzed the diets and risk factors of nearly 6,000 adult men and women over a 27-month period. Participants’ intake ranged from one to three servings of dairy foods each day, and those who consumed low-fat options were less likely to develop hypertension. Ninety-two percent of the low-fat dairy intake in the study was attributed to milk. Researchers found no association between full-fat dairy foods and hypertension risk.

The Navarra study is just one of many studies that support a possible role of low-fat milk and milk products in the prevention of hypertension. For example, The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) found that a diet rich in low-fat milk and milk products (3 servings per day) and fruits and vegetables (8-10 servings) may help lower blood pressure.

Other studies suggest that nutrients found in milk — calcium, potassium and magnesium — may play an important role in maintaining normal blood pressure.

Another risk factor for hypertension is poor diet. While low-fat dairy always has been recommended as part of a healthy diet, most Americans still do not get enough of it. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and MyPyramid recommendations, Americans should include at least 3 servings of low-fat milk or milk products in their diet every day. This will ensure adequate consumption of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium and magnesium.

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