Got high blood pressure? Try adding lowfat dairy

ST. PAUL—A new study suggests that increased intake of lowfat dairy foods, as part of a Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-based eating plan, may lower blood pressure more effectively than a conventional lowfat diet—a significant finding for the estimated one in three Americans who suffer from high blood pressure.(1, 2)

Published May 9 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared two diets—one based on the DASH eating pattern and the other a typical lowfat diet—combined with increased physical activity. The study found that for comparable weight loss, the DASH-based diet resulted in a greater decrease in blood pressure than did the lowfat diet.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan was developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and is composed of three daily servings of lowfat dairy foods and eight to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The government recently highlighted the health benefits of DASH by recommending the eating plan in the new Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid, and NHLBI designated May as National Blood Pressure Education Month.

The study participants, consisting of 54 middle-aged men with a body mass index of about 30, were assigned to one of the two diets for 12 weeks and engaged in similar levels of physical activity. Both diet plans included lowfat or fat-free dairy foods, fruits and vegetables, but at week 12, the DASH-based group reported a higher intake of dairy foods (approximately four daily servings compared to 2-1/2 among the lowfat group). There was no reported difference in fruit and vegetable intake between the two diet groups.

The authors speculate that a combination of factors such as lower sodium and increased potassium, calcium and magnesium—key nutrients found in dairy—may be responsible for the greater effect of the DASH-based diet on the obesity-related elevated blood pressure. Potassium has long been seen as a key nutrient in lowering blood pressure. Each 8-ounce serving of milk provides about 350-400 mg. of potassium, or 11 percent of the Daily Value (DV) per serving. Fluid milk is the No. 1 source of potassium in the U.S. food supply.

“DASH-recommended foods like fruits, vegetables and lowfat milk, cheese and yogurt have been shown to be very effective in lowering blood pressure, as well as reducing the risk of other chronic diseases,” said Melissa Joy Buoscio, MS, RD, CDE, Midwest Dairy Council. “It’s good news for people who can still eat foods they enjoy—like chocolate milk, yogurt parfaits or even pizza with veggies and lowfat cheese—and still get the health benefits.”

For more information on the nutritional benefits of dairy foods, visit and Parents and educators can also get fun recipes and tips on how to get 3-A-Day of Dairy at


1. Nowson C, et al. Blood pressure change with weight loss is affected by diet type in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005; 81:983-9.

2. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Facts about high blood pressure. Accessed May 6, 2005.

From the July 6-12, 2005, issue

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