Soy Milk Lowers Blood Pressure
Drinking soy milk regularly may lead to substantial reductions of blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition (2002;132:1900–2).
In this study, 40 people with moderately elevated blood pressure were randomly assigned to drink one liter per day of either soy milk or skimmed cow's milk for a three-month period. Participants drinking the soy milk had a significantly greater fall in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared with those drinking cow's milk. This effect, however, was variable, with some study participants receiving substantial benefits from the soy milk and others receiving very little.
After three months, the average systolic blood pressure (the higher number) had decreased by 18.4 mm Hg and the diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) had fallen by 15.9 mm Hg in the soy group. This reduction is comparable to that seen with many prescription blood pressure-lowering drugs. The authors of the study characterized the benefit seen in the soy milk group as only "modest," which is surprising given the fact that simply drinking soy milk for three months would have been sufficient to bring the elevated blood pressure of many participants down to normal.
The diet currently recommended for individuals with high blood pressure is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and low-fat dairy products, and low in refined sugar, alcohol, and saturated fat. Given the results of this new study, soy milk may be a superior alternative to low-fat dairy products for people consuming the DASH diet.
According to the American Heart Association, one in four adult Americans has high blood pressure (hypertension). Up to 30% of Americans with hypertension are undiagnosed and are not receiving treatment. Over time, high blood pressure can lead to a number of adverse health consequences, including stroke, heart attack, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Soy milk can be found in most large grocery stores and in health-food stores. It can be used as a replacement for cow's milk, both as a beverage and in recipes.
Matt Brignall, ND is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Bastyr University. He works at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, where he specializes in complementary medicine approaches to cancer. He has been published in several journals, including Alternative Medicine Review, Coping With Cancer, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Brignall also teaches clinical nutrition at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. He is a regular contributor to Healthnotes, Healthnotes Newswire, and the Healthnotes Quick!Reference series.
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