A Research Blog

First author Dr Mohammad Talaei and co-senior authors Prof Koh Woon-Puay and Prof Yuan Jian Min

A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition had an interesting finding; Chinese elderly who had consumed milk were less likely than their counterparts to be diagnosed with hypertension. 

Globally, high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for death associated with cardiovascular disease. A proven, effective way to prevent high blood pressure is adhering to DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which includes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, low- or non-fat dairy foods, whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry, nuts and beans.

The consumption of dairy products is believed to be a key factor in DASH that prevents high blood pressure. This belief has been substantiated by studies in populations that traditionally consume high levels of dairy. What’s interesting about the study, led by NUS’ Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH) PhD student Dr Mohammad Talaei and his supervisor Professor Koh Woon-Puay from Duke-NUS Medical School and SSHSPH, is that it is the first to show the same positive effect of dairy on high blood pressure, in a Asian population that traditionally has a relatively low consumption of dairy products.

The population data used in the research comes from the Singapore Chinese Health Study (SCHS), a prospective study that recruited about 63,000 middle-aged and elderly Chinese, living in Singapore between 1993 and 1998, who have been followed-up with until now. Typical dietary intake patterns were ascertained using a 165-item questionnaire. This analysis was done in over 37,000 participants with completed follow-up who had no history of hypertension or cardiovascular disease when they were enrolled. Occurrence of newly-diagnosed hypertension was diagnosed by doctors and documented twice during the study, over a mean follow-up period of 9.5 years.

The main dairy products were listed in three items that were commonly consumed in the local Chinese population: 1) milk including powdered, whole, low fat, and chocolate but excluding addition to coffee or tea; 2) Milo, Ovaltine, or Horlicks; and 3) yoghurt or cultured milk drinks. Intake of milk added to coffee or tea (evaporated or condensed), butter used as bread spread, as well as ice cream and frozen yogurt were asked separately and considered in the computation of dairy food intake. The small amounts of dairy products used in cooking procedures of local dishes (including rice dishes, mashed potatoes, fast foods, etc.) were also taken into account to enhance the accuracy of estimated total dairy product intake.

The study showed that the higher consumption of dairy products was associated with a lower risk of developing hypertension compared to lower consumption. Specifically, participants who were in the top 25% consumption for dairy food were 7% less likely to be diagnosed with hypertension compared to those in the lowest 25%. For the specific analysis on milk consumption, participants who drank at least one glass of milk everyday were 6% less likely to develop hypertension compared to those who were not milk-drinkers (less than one glass per month).

“Our findings indicate that drinking a cup of milk daily may be beneficial for health; thus those who do not have problem tolerating dairy products may enjoy it as a potential healthy choice” affirmed the study’s authors, Dr Talaei and Prof Koh.

The SCHS is funded by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and receives active collaboration and support from the Singapore Ministry of Health.

(In picture, from left to right) First author Dr Mohammad Talaei and co-senior authors Prof Koh Woon-Puay and Prof Yuan Jian Min

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