- Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have hypertension, which carries health risks like an increased chance of cardiac issues.
- A new study identified two strains of probiotics that may offer protective benefits against high blood pressure.
- However, the research is still in its early stages, as the study’s small sample size included only 29 mice.
Hypertension can have a cascading effect, increasing the risk for other health issues, including:
Lifestyle modifications and medications are traditionally recommended to treat or lower blood pressure.
Recently, a small study of 29 mice identified two strains of probiotics that may offer protective benefits for hyptension.
The study suggests the probiotic strains Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which can be found in foods like yogurt and cheese, could help lower blood pressure.
The research, published on October 19 in mSystems, adds to other evidence indicating that probiotics may have antihypertensive effects.
“Accumulated evidence supports an antihypertensive effect of probiotics and probiotic fermented foods in both in vitro and in vivo experiments,” said Jun Li, PhD, a computational biologist and researcher, in a media release. “So, we believed that the dietary intake of probiotic foods would well supplement traditional hypertension treatment.”
However, experts caution there are still questions about whether these probiotic strains benefit hypertension treatment and protection, particularly whether the research can be applied to humans.
“This study was small and done in mice,” said
Still, understanding the new research — and hypertension risks and treatments — can empower patients to take the reins of their healthcare.
Health experts explained what the latest research does (and doesn’t) tell us about probiotics and hypertension and shared tips for reducing your risk of adverse effects from the condition.
Research on probiotics and hypertension is in its infancy.
Still, some data have suggested a potential protective effect against hypertension, which the
For instance, a
“This stoked an interest in whether probiotics, which produce these peptides, may help lower blood pressure,” said Dr. Joseph A. Diamond, director of nuclear cardiology at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
One year later, a
More recently, a
With emerging research in mind, the authors designed a 16-week study using 29 mice to try and determine whether Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus could reduce fructose-related elevations in blood pressure levels.
Researchers divided mice into four groups that consumed:
- normal drinking water (the control group)
- high-fructose water without probiotics (the fructose group)
- high-fructose water with Bifidobacterium lactis
- high-fructose water with Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Results indicated that fructose-fed mice who received either probiotic strain had significantly lower blood pressure than the group that didn’t receive probiotics.
Additionally, mice who received probiotics with fructose water did not have different blood pressure levels than the control group that only consumed water.
Researchers believe the study indicates that probiotic interventions for blood pressure might help maintain normal levels.
Researchers attempted to deduce that.
“They analyzed DNA from the mouse microbiome and analyzed the metabolites of these microbes after introducing two specific probiotic species of microbe, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, in order to assess the biological effects on the microbiome and the effects on blood pressure,” Diamond said.
Mice fed a high-fructose diet had altered Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes bacteria ratios, but probiotic interventions put the ratio back on par with the control groups.
“In addition,” according to the media release, “the analysis identified new microbial signatures associated with blood pressure: Increased levels of Lawsonia and Pyrolobus bacteria, and reduced levels of Alistipesand Alloprevotella, were associated with lower blood pressure.”
“In doing so, this study begins to shed some light on how probiotics may help to lower blood pressure,” Diamond said.
However, Postalian said the question of how probiotic interventions might aid blood pressure reduction still lingers.
“While the study tries to answer this question, it remains incompletely understood,” Postalian said.
“They show that the ‘good’ bacteria can have an effect on amino acid metabolism, steroid hormone synthesis, endothelial function, and metabolism of potential antioxidants — all of which may come together to achieve the observed effect on blood pressure.”
However, more research is needed before doctors feel confident drawing definitive conclusions and making recommendations.
Researchers are planning a larger clinical trial of humans to see if the protective benefits offered by probiotics in a small group of mice apply.
One cardiologist said that’s critical, particularly the human element.
“It is far too soon to know whether this data is more broadly applicable to people,” said Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, a board certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in California.
“The next stage of this research will be to test and replicate these findings in humans. A significant focus will be to study the amount and duration of probiotic therapy that will demonstrate a therapeutic effect.”
High blood pressure affects the arteries and is considered a heart-related condition. However, cardiologists stress that the heart doesn’t operate in a vacuum.
“You can think of elevated blood pressure as what high water pressure from the city pump could do to your home appliances: damage them.” Postalian said.
“If you submit an organ, such as the eyes or kidneys, to extensive periods receiving the high impact of elevated blood pressure, the organ will slowly become damaged over time.”
Chen said that people with hypertension are at an increased risk for:
- coronary artery disease
- heart failure
- kidney failure
- vision loss
- mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
What’s more, data from the
Diamond said lifestyle modifications are also important, including:
- weight loss (if needed) and healthy weight management
- smoking cessation (if needed)
- regular exercise
- stress management
- reducing salt intake
Should that diet include probiotic-rich foods or supplements to manage blood pressure? Again, experts say it’s too soon to say on the blood pressure front.
“As doctors, we like to see strong evidence in well-conducted human studies before subjecting our patients to new therapies,” Postalian said. “Having an honest conversation with your doctor about what you’d like to try is always a good idea.”
A small mice study indicated that a pair of probiotic strains, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, found in food like yogurt, may provide antihypertensive benefits.
However, researchers say it’s too soon to draw conclusions, noting the small sample size and the fact that experiments were performed on mice.
Hypertension is common among U.S. adults, with about half of the population having the condition that can increase a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.
Only about a quarter have blood pressure under control.