While the reduction wasn't large, He estimates it could lead to 6 percent fewer strokes, for instance, in the general population.
He believes the study is the first of its kind to find a benefit from milk and soy protein in blood pressure reduction.
Dr. Thomas Giles, president of the American Society of Hypertension Specialist Program and a past president of the organization, called the study results underwhelming.
"You couldn't possibly make any dietary changes based on this study," said Giles, who is also a professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine.
Among the study's flaws, he said, was that the researchers did not measure blood pressure for 24 hours, using an ambulatory monitor.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "I think future studies need to be done," since the new study was fairly small and did not cover a long period of time. Still, she added, "It shows us the importance of diet and modifying risk factors."
Small changes could make a difference, Steinbaum said. She suggests replacing animal fat with soy protein -- such as substituting a veggie burger with soy protein for a hamburger with animal protein, at least occasionally.
He offers many suggestions for those who want to maintain a healthy blood pressure. "Control your weight," he said. "Don't smoke."
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a reasonable eating plan, he said. He also advises monitoring pressure regularly.
He reports consulting for Novartis and Forest Laboratories, which make blood pressure-lowering medicines.
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