Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects one in four Americans, but a new study suggests that what's filling your glass at mealtimes may help reduce your risk. Published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study found that people who drink lowfat milk may be at a lower risk of developing hypertension, which is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Researchers at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, in cooperation with Harvard University analyzed the diets and risk factors of nearly 6,000 adult men and women over a 27-month period. Participants' intake ranged from one to three servings of dairy foods each day, and those who consumed lowfat options were less likely to develop hypertension. Ninety-two percent of the lowfat dairy intake in the study was attributed to milk. There was no association found between full-fat dairy foods and hypertension risk.

The Dairy Connection

The Navarra study is just one of many studies that support a possible role of lowfat milk and milk products in the prevention of hypertension. For example, The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) found that a diet rich in lowfat milk and milk products (3 servings per day) and fruits and vegetables (8-10 servings) can help lower blood pressure.

Other studies suggest that nutrients found in milk -- calcium, potassium and magnesium -- may play an important role in maintaining normal blood pressure.

Milk the Dietary Guidelines

Another risk factor for hypertension is poor diet. While lowfat dairy has always been recommended as part of a healthy diet, most Americans still do not get enough of it. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid recommendations, Americans should include at least 3 servings of lowfat milk or milk products in their diet every day. This will ensure adequate consumption of nine essential nutrients including calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Source: Alonso, A., Beunza, JJ., Delgado-Rodriguez, M., Martinez, JA., and Martinez-Gonzalez, MA. Lowfat dairy consumption and reduced risk of hypertension: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005; 82: 972

The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, D.C., is funded by the nation's milk processors, who are committed to increasing fluid milk consumption. Together with dairy farmers, the MilkPEP Board runs the National "got milk?" Milk Mustache Campaign, a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers on the benefits of milk. For more information, go to http://www.whymilk.com .

The tagline "got milk?"(R) was created for the California Milk Processor Board by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and is licensed by the national milk processor and dairy producer groups.