Although people often think of bacteria as harmful “germs,” many of these microorganisms are actually good for our health. These “friendly germs,” called probiotics, live in our gut, where they aid digestion, intestinal function and protect against harmful bacteria.
So, eating foods with good bacteria benefits our health. In fact, a recent study suggests probiotics may offer another benefit: lower blood pressure. The study found that people who regularly ate foods containing large amounts of live bacteria or who took probiotic supplements, saw significant reduction in their blood pressure levels.
Probiotics are used in the manufacture of dietary supplements that are sold as capsules, tablets, powders, topical pastes and gels for human use, as well as in animal feed for pets and farm animals. Foods such as yogurt, fermented and sour milk, cheese and dietary supplements contain good bacteria.
The trials involved participants who consumed healthy bacteria in foods such as yogurt, fermented dairy drinks or cheese. In one study, people who took a probiotic supplement (capsule form) had a significant reduction in both their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) and diastolic blood pressure (the second number) when compared with people who did not consume probiotics. The positive effects from probiotics on diastolic blood pressure were greatest in people whose blood pressure was equal to or greater than 130/85, which is considered elevated.
“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,” said Jing Sun, Ph.D., lead author and senior lecturer at the Griffith Health Institute and School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. “This includes probiotics in yogurt, fermented and sour milk and cheese, and probiotic supplements.”
Global sales of probiotic ingredients, supplements and foods totaled about $23.1 billion in 2012, with probiotic foods representing about 92.4% of all sales. Global sales of probiotic ingredients, supplements and foods should reach $36.6 billion in 2018, reflecting a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% from 2013-2018.
The analysis did not examine whether getting probiotics from food was better at reducing blood pressure than getting good bacteria from supplements. The study authors believe their findings require more research before probiotics can be recommended for blood pressure control and prevention.
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