Bugs beat down blood pressure

A new review of research suggests probiotics may help lower blood pressure, particular among those who need to most.

Though current buzz may surround the gut-brain axis and the power of probiotics to impact our mood and even memory, a recent review of research focuses on the microbes’ impact on blood pressure. Three cheers for the gut-vein axis?

A recent review of research that appeared in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, noted on forbes.com, suggests that probiotics may reduce blood pressure, especially for people with high blood pressure.

The report looked at nine studies, involving a total of 540 participants. The subjects took probiotics for at least eight weeks. After that time, subjects who had taken the daily dose of bugs showed small reductions in both systolic (by just over 3 mmHG) and diastolic blood (by just over 2 mmHG) pressure. The subjects with the highest pressures at the start of the study showed the greatest reduction. Probiotics with multiple strains of bacteria seemed more helpful than probiotics with just one flavor of microbe. The effect didn’t kick in for people who took the probiotics for less than eight weeks.

“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,” study author Jing Sun told forbes.com. “This includes probiotics in yogurt, fermented and sour milk and cheese, and probiotic supplements.”

How do the bugs reduce the pressure? Researchers aren’t sure. “We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health,” said Sun, “including improving total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and by helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance.”

While the reduction of blood pressure among people discussed in the study was not massive, the authors note that previous research showed that a similarly small drop in blood pressure was linked to a 22 percent reduction in the risk of death from heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Little bacteria, big impact.

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