July 22, 2014 1:29 pm

Probiotics in yogurt could protect against heart disease: study

WATCH:  Eating yogurt with probiotics may help people with hypertension to lower their blood pressure. David Begnaud has details.

It’s celebrated as a healthy snack that helps to regulate your digestive system while feeding good bacteria to your gut, but new research is suggesting that yogurt can even help to lower blood pressure.

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Australian researchers are pointing to the probiotics in yogurt as the key player in improving your blood pressure. They say the micro-organisms help with fighting cholesterol and regulating insulin levels especially in people who have poor heart health to begin with.

“The small collection of studies we looked at suggest regular consumption of probiotics can be part of a healthy lifestyle to help reduce high blood pressure as well as maintain healthy blood pressure levels,” lead author Griffith University Dr. Jing Sun said in a university statement.

“This includes probiotics in yogurt, fermented and sour milk and cheese and probiotic supplements,” Sun said.

READ MORE: How a Canadian yogurt is detoxifying the world’s food supply

The research is based on an analysis of nine studies that looked at how probiotics affected 543 people with normal and high blood pressure. The participants were assigned to probiotics for at least eight weeks.

By the end of the two months, the group had small reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. And if the probiotics had multiple strains of bacteria, the consumers reaped more benefits.

But the effects were only measurable after the eight week period.

So why do the researchers think yogurt may be fighting heart disease? It could be a response to the other health benefits at play, Sun suggests.

“We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health,” Sun said. Eating probiotics helped with cholesterol, insulin levels and regulated hormones.

Probiotics have already been tied to helping with intestinal issues, keeping infections at bay and even making diners feel more satiated.

READ MORE: Certain probiotics could help women lose weight, study suggests

More research needs to be done before doctors can confidently recommend probiotics for high blood pressure control, though.

The study is only a piece of the growing research backing the benefits of probiotics. Earlier this year, Quebec scientists suggested that certain probiotics that are already worked into yogurt in Europe can help with weight loss in women.

Researchers at Laval University in Quebec City say that probiotics from the Lactobacillus rhamnosus family may hold the key to helping women with weight loss.

“This is the type of finding that occasionally generates an excess of enthusiasm. We rather perceive (it) as a small step toward a good direction, that it might help some individuals control their body weight,” lead author Dr. Angelo Tremblay told Global News.

Throughout the study, half the group swallowed two daily probiotic pills while the other half took a placebo. After 12 weeks, women who took the probiotics lost 4.4 kgs or 9.7 pounds while the placebo group lost 2.6 kgs or 5.7 pounds.

READ MORE: What you should be eating to lower your blood pressure

Even after the 12-week period, the women in the probiotic group continued to lose weight while the placebo group maintained their weight.

In the end, the women taking probiotics lost twice as much weight over the 24-week period. The researchers also documented a drop in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin.

Sun’s findings were published Monday night in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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