Gut-brain boost: Kefir could lower hypertension, study finds

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30 Apr 2018 --- Fermented probiotic milk drink, kefir, may have a positive effect on blood pressure by prompting communication between the gut and the brain. The drink, known to help maintain the balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, was at the heart of the rodent study conducted by a research team from the Auburn University in Alabama, in collaboration with the University of Vila Velha in Brazil. The research echoes previous findings demonstrating a link between gut health and hypertension. 

“Our data suggests that kefir antihypertensive-associated mechanisms involve gut microbiota-brain axis communication during hypertension,” commented the researchers.

Previous research has shown that an imbalance in the gut's colony of bacteria (microbiota) may cause high blood pressure in some people. Similarly, probiotics – live bacteria supplements that are beneficial to the digestive system – have been found to lower blood pressure, but the mechanisms by which this occurs are unclear.

A research team from Auburn University in Alabama, in collaboration with the University of Vila Velha in Brazil, studied three groups of rats to determine how kefir reduces high blood pressure (hypertension):
•    One group had hypertension and was treated with kefir (“treated”).
•    One group had hypertension and was not treated (“untreated”).
•    One group had normal blood pressure and was not treated (“control”)
Following nine weeks of kefir supplementation, the treated rats had lower levels of endotoxins (toxic substances associated with disruption in the cells), lower blood pressure and improved intestinal permeability when compared with the untreated group.

Healthy intestines allow some substances to pass through, but generally act as a barrier to keep out harmful bacteria and other potentially dangerous substances. In addition, kefir supplementation restored the natural balance of four different bacteria in the gut and of an enzyme in the brain essential for normal nervous system function, suggesting that the nervous and digestive systems work together to reduce hypertension.

In related reporting, the food industry has responded to the boost in popularity enjoyed by ingredients that claim to have a healthy effect on the gut. Innova Market Insights emphasized fermentation of foods back in 2015, presenting it as part of the move to processing the natural way, which was one of its Top Ten Trends for 2016.

With fermentation seen as a natural and authentic process, new product development and heightened consumer awareness have combined to bring a raft of traditional products back to the fore, often extending them out of particular geographical regions and specialty markets into the mainstream on a more global basis.  

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