Men who eat plenty of fermented dairy products have a lower risk of incident coronary heart disease than men who eat less of these products, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. A very high consumption of non-fermented dairy products, on the other hand, was associated with an increased risk of incident coronary heart disease.
According to the Health Organisation (WHO), over 17.9 million die from cardiovascular diseases each year, and this make up 31 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
Examples of fermented dairy products include cheese, yoghurt, quark, kefir, sour cream, butter milk, viili, and sour milk, and while the local ones include nono, maishanu and wara.
Previous studies have shown that these products have more positive effects on blood lipid profiles and on reducing the risk of heart disease than other dairy products.
The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study ongoing at the University of Eastern Finland explored the associations between fermented and non-fermented dairy products with the risk of incident coronary heart disease. Approximately 2,000 men participated in the research.
The findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition assessed the dietary consumption habits of participants at the beginning of the study in 1984-1989, 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 survey 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.
When the study participants were divided into four groups on the basis of their consumption of fermented dairy products with less than 3.5 percent fat, the risk of incident coronary heart disease was 26 percent lower in the highest consumption group compared to the lowest consumption group.
Sour milk was the most commonly used 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 of non-fermented dairy products was associated with an increased risk of incident coronary heart disease.
Milk was the most commonly used product in this category, and a very high consumption was defined as an average daily milk intake of 0.9 litres. Lower consumption levels were not associated with the risk.
Adjunct Professor Jyrki Virtanen from the University of Eastern Finland, said “here in Finland, people’s habits of consuming different dairy products have changed over the past decades. For instance, the consumption of milk and sour milk have declined, while many fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt, quark and cheeses, have gained in popularity.”
The latest study provides further evidence on the health benefits that fermented dairy products may have over non-fermented ones.
All the mechanisms are not understood yet, but they may be linked to compounds forming during the fermentation process.
Marcia Otto assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health, and author of the study said in a statement: “Our findings not only support, but also significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults.”