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Study: Probiotics can help high blood pressure

By Melissa Leavitt

Adding more bugs to your body may help your heart. A new study coming out in the journal Hypertension found that taking probiotics, which are live microorganisms that can be consumed in a pill or in food or drinks like yogurt or kefir, can reduce blood pressure.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of many of the conditions, or comorbidities, associated with psoriatic disease. Hypertension is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, and is also a contributing factor to metabolic syndrome. Hypertension is also a risk factor for developing psoriatic disease. 

The study authors analyzed nine trials involving 543 participants total that tested the effects of probiotics on blood pressure. Of these nine, the authors report, five showed a reduction in systolic blood pressure, and two showed a reduction in diastolic blood pressure. In most of the studies, patients consumed probiotics in dairy products, such as yogurt. 

Blood pressure readings, measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), include a top and a bottom number. The top number measures the pressure on the arteries during heart beats, or systolic blood pressure. The bottom number measures the pressure on the arteries between heart beats, or diastolic blood pressure. For instance, in the blood pressure reading of 110 mm Hg/70 mm Hg, 110 refers to systolic blood pressure, and 70 refers to diastolic blood pressure. 

After analyzing results from all of the studies, the researchers concluded that probiotics could reduce systolic blood pressure by 3.56 mm Hg, and diastolic blood pressure by 2.38 mm Hg. According to a statement on the study released by the American Heart Association, this indicates that probiotics can “modestly improve” blood pressure.

Taking probiotics for at least two months, and taking multiple species of probiotics – yogurt, for example, often contains multiple species of probiotics--was the best way to lower blood pressure, the authors found. The study also notes that probiotic use was most effective in patients whose blood pressure was higher than 130/85. According to American Heart Association guidelines, normal blood pressure should be lower than 120/80.

Further studies are needed to determine the amount and kinds of probiotics that have the greatest impact on blood pressure, the study authors conclude. 

As noted in the study, probiotics have recently been found to improve immune system function and help relieve diarrhea. Many scientists are investigating how microorganisms that live on skin and in the gut, collectively known as the microbiome, play a role in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The National Psoriasis Foundation recently awarded a $75,000 grant for research into the microbiome

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