Dairy Foods Blog

Dairy solutions to help fight high blood pressure

A DASH diet (rich in fruits, vegetables and predominantly low-fat dairy products) was found to lower blood pressure to a greater extent than a diet rich in fruits and vegetables but devoid of dairy.

March 25, 2014

People want to make food choices they can feel good about. For many, this means including options that help manage their blood pressure 1(i.e., hypertension). Today, an estimated 76.4 million Americans are living with high blood pressure and nearly 30 percent have prehypertension. 2,3

When it comes to managing blood pressure, diet quality and lifestyle changes — not just less sodium — are important. Consuming recommended amounts of potassium, losing excess weight, increasing physical activity and eating a healthful diet, in addition to meeting recommended sodium intakes, may help lower risk for high blood pressure.

Diet is one helpful tool in thwarting and managing these conditions, with several short-term studies indicating overall dietary patterns can profoundly impact blood pressure. 4,5,6,7, High intake of sodium can be linked to increased prevalence of high blood pressure, but dietary potassium can help lower blood pressure by blunting the adverse effects of sodium. Examples of potassium-containing foods are fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt.

Americans can achieve sodium and potassium recommendations by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Within the context of a reduced-fat diet, a DASH diet — rich in fruits, vegetables and predominantly low-fat dairy products (including an average of 1 ounce of regular cheese each day) — was found to lower blood pressure to a greater extent than a diet rich in fruits and vegetables but devoid of dairy.

In addition, several large prospective studies associate dairy foods with reduced risk of hypertension. 8,9,10 One cross-sectional study of nearly 5,000 adults found consuming three or more servings of dairy foods per day correlated with lower prevalence of high blood pressure when compared with consuming less than half a serving of dairy per day. 11

Educating Americans about your products’ place in a DASH diet will become even more important leading up to and following the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines typically focus on a positive approach to reduce risk of or lower elevated blood pressure, including through following the DASH diet; it recommends Americans consume fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. 12

Most nutritionists recommend a total diet and lifestyle approach to reduce risk of high blood pressure. It is important to demonstrate how nutrient-rich dairy foods fit into a heart-healthy diet such as the DASH. Educational tools are available through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® to help communicate dairy’s essential role in a balanced, nutrient-rich diet to help Americans achieve their health and wellness goals. Along with educating the public on dairy’s role in a DASH diet, the Innovation Center works with cheese makers to better control, and ultimately help reduce, sodium content with new rapid sodium testing technology.

The rapid testing, developed in conjunction with nearly 80 percent of the U.S. cheese industry by volume, provides a newfound ability to test and control sodium levels while cheese is being made. Ultimately, this technology allows manufacturers to better control and reduce sodium content by reducing variability between batches. After three years of development, rapid sodium testing technology currently is being piloted in partner manufacturing facilities this spring.

With the amplification and adoption of these best practices within the industry, the millions of Americans living with high blood pressure will know they can turn to dairy foods not only for the DASH diet, but also for lower-sodium, nutrient-rich options to help meet their needs — and that is something the whole industry can feel good about.


  1. Roger, V.L., A.S. Go, D.M. Lloyd-Jones, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2011 Update. Circulation 123: e18-e209, 2011. 
  2. Roger, V.L., A.S. Go, D.M. Lloyd-Jones, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2011 Update. Circulation 123: e18-e209, 2011. 
  3. Chobanian, A.V., G.L. Bakris, H.R. Black, et al. The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. JAMA 289: 2560-2572, 2003. 
  4. Appel, L.J., T.J. Moore, E. Obarzanek, et al. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. N. Engl. J. Med. 336: 1117-1124, 1997. 
  5. Obarzanek, E., and T.J. Moore (Eds). The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Trial. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 99(suppl): 9s-104s, 1999. 
  6. McCarron, D.A., and M.E. Reusser. Reducing cardiovascular disease risk with diet. Obesity Res. 9(suppl 5): 335s-340s, 2001. 
  7. Sacks, F.M., L.P. Svetkey, W.M. Vollmer, et. al. for the DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. N. Engl. J. Med. 344: 3-10, 2001. 
  8. Toledo, E., M. Delgado-Rodriquez, R. Estruch, et al. Low-fat dairy products and blood pressure: follow-up of 2290 older persons at high cardiovascular risk participating in the PREDIMED study. Br. J. Nutr. 101: 59-67, 2009. 
  9. . Engberink, M.E., M.A. Hendrikson, E.G. Schouten, et al. Inverse association between dairy intake and hypertension: the Rotterdam Study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 89: 1877-1883, 2009. 
  10. Alonso, A., L.M. Steffen, and A.R. Folsom. Dairy intake and changes in blood pressure over 9 years: the ARIC study. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 63: 1272-1275, 2009. 
  11. Djousse, L., J.S. Pankow, S.C. Hunt, et al. Influence of saturated fat and linolenic acid on the association between intake of dairy products and blood pressure. Hypertension 48: 335-341, 2006. 
  12. Appel, L.J., E.D. Frohlich, J.E. Hall, et al. The importance of population-wide sodium reduction as a means to prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke: a call to action from the American Heart Association. Circulation 123: 1138-1143, 2011. 



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