By: Austin Perlmutter, MD, Medical Student, Miller School of Medicine
As research on the microbiome flourishes, we continue to find evidence for the role of probiotics in optimizing our health. Most recently, an analysis published in the journal Hypertension examines the effect of probiotic supplementation on our blood pressure. Considering that two thirds of Americans are pre-hypertensive or fully hypertensive, this data may prove extremely significant
Over the last several years, we’ve started investigations on how probiotics affect everything from brain health to acne. Though this is a relatively new field of academic concentration, the interplay between bacteria and human has been increasingly illuminating. One area of focus examines changes in blood pressure with probiotic administration. Several studies have observed positive interactions, but this meta-analysis is the first to cross-analyze and synthesize the available information.
Comparing results from randomized, controlled trials on humans, there were a total of 9 studies included in the analysis. Participants received supplemental probiotics in the form of yogurt, fermented/sour milk, supplements, rose hip drinks or cheese. Overall, the analysis showed that consumption of probiotics led to a significant decrease in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure measurements. As could be expected, larger changes were seen in those who started with high blood pressure than those who were healthy to begin with.
High blood pressure is a major health concern, with tens of thousands of American deaths each year directly related to this disease. In addition, hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in this country. If we can partially alleviate this concern with something as simple as probiotic supplementation, the effects might be far-reaching
What does all this mean? At the most basic level, there is no downside to starting a probiotic supplement each day. For those already taking probiotics, this is another reason to continue. Good sources of probiotics include yogurt, cheese, and fermented beverages like unsweetened kefir or kombucha. However, a high quality supplement containing at least 10 billion active cultures from 10 or more strains including lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium is the best way to ensure you meet all your probiotic needs.