Probiotics, or “good bacteria” as they are often called, are microorganisms which provide beneficial effects and according to a recent study, one of these benefits may include lowering high blood pressure.
Our digestive system is home to over 500 types of bacteria, and many researchers have proposed that digestive disorders arise when the levels of beneficial bacteria are improperly balanced. Some common culprits in the destruction of these bacteria are antibiotics or infection. From treating ulcerative colitis to strengthening the immune system, probiotics have been studied for their ability to treat many ailments.
Previous studies have indicated that probiotics can help regulate blood pressure. But which probiotics, how much, and how often would you need to take them? This is what the authors of a recently published sought to determine in their meta-analysis of nine studies. All of the studies were randomized controlled trials, the “gold standard” for a clinical trial.
The studies included over 500 participants, in total, who were randomly assigned to take probiotics or not. Researchers found that participants who took probiotics for longer than eight weeks saw a significant decrease in blood pressure.
The researchers found that on average, probiotic intake lowered systolic blood pressure by 3.56 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.38 mm Hg, compared to a placebo or no treatment. According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure is regarded as a systolic reading of less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic reading of less than 80 mm Hg – high blood pressure starts at 140/90 mm Hg.
In order to observe an effect, the authors write, participants had to receive over 100 billion colony forming units, and the effects were enhanced when multiple species were administered. Interestingly, a greater effect was also observed in individuals with elevated blood pressure. Still not convinced to start eating bacteria? You’re not alone.
“Americans don’t like to think about bacteria so it’s hard for people to embrace it but there are good and bad bacteria and there is no avoiding them. Our gut is home to many bacteria and if bumping up the amount of good bacteria can optimize health and prevent chronic diseases then that’s a good thing,” said Lori Hoolihan, a researcher at the Dairy Council of California in Irvine.
The authors note that there are limitations to the study. Further studies are needed to identify which species, or combinations of bacteria are most effective. Also, in the studies different sources of probiotics were used, from yogurt to sour cream to cheese, which presents a problem when trying to give medical advice.