Men who eat plenty of fermented dairy products – such as cheese, yoghurt, quark, kefir and sour milk – have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than men who eat less of these products, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland.
Earlier studies have shown that fermented dairy products have more positive effects on blood cholesterol levels and on the risk of heart disease than other dairy products.
About the study
The ongoing Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study at the University of Eastern Finland explored the link between fermented (with less than 3.5% milkfat) and non-fermented dairy products with the risk of developing coronary heart disease in approximately 2,000 men.
Dietary habits were assessed at the beginning of the study in 1984-1989 (men were 42 to 60 years in age when the study began), and they were followed up for an average of 20 years. During this follow-up, 472 men experienced an incident coronary heart disease event.
The study participants were divided into groups on the basis of how much they ate different dairy products, and the researchers compared the groups with the highest and lowest consumption, while also taking various lifestyle and nutrition factors into consideration.
Fermented dairy product use tied to less heart disease
The researchers found that the risk of developing coronary heart disease was 26% lower in the highest consumption group compared to the lowest consumption group. Sour milk was the most commonly consumed low-fat fermented dairy product. The consumption of high-fat fermented dairy products, such as cheese, was not associated with the risk of incident coronary heart disease.
However, the researchers found that a very high consumption on non-fermented dairy products – about 4 cups per day – was tied to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Milk was the most commonly consumed product in this category; lower intake levels were not associated with the risk.
The new study provides further evidence on the health benefits that fermented dairy products may have over non-fermented ones. How fermented dairy products may protect against heart disease aren’t understood, but it may have to do with beneficial compounds forming during the fermentation process.
This study was not a randomized controlled trial and therefore does not prove that consuming fermented dairy products reduce the risk of heart disease.
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