Soy, dairy protein may help lower blood pressure

( — People with hypertension who replace a portion of the carbohydrates in their diet with soy protein or low-fat dairy may see a small yet meaningful decrease in their blood pressure, a new study suggests.

The findings aren’t entirely surprising: Diets high in refined carbohydrates are generally believed to be unhealthy for the heart, while soy foods such as tofu have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease, especially when eaten in place of meat.

Relatively little is known about how these foods affect blood pressure, however. To answer this question, researchers put more than 350 people with mild hypertension or higher-than-normal blood pressure on three separate regimens of daily supplements containing soy protein, milk protein, and complex carbohydrates.

Without knowing which was which, the study participants took each supplement exclusively for a two-month period.

The carbohydrate supplement — which contained largely refined carbohydrates — had no measurable effect on blood pressure, but when the participants took the soy and milk protein supplements, their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) dropped by about two points, on average.

“Our message really encourages people to eat more beans — especially soybeans — and to eat more low-fat dairy,” says the lead author of the study, Jiang He, M.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, in New Orleans.


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