Milk and dairy foods are healthy foods and considered nutrient-rich because they serve as good sources of calcium and vitamin D as well as protein and other essential nutrients. A new study by the University of Eastern Finland has now suggested that men who eat plenty of fermented dairy products have a smaller risk of incident coronary heart disease.
The new 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.
The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study ongoing at the University of Eastern Finland explored the associations of fermented and non-fermented dairy products with the risk of incident coronary heart disease. Scientists analyzed almost 2,000 men and assessed their dietary habits 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.
During the study, all participants were divided into groups on the basis of how much they ate different dairy products. 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% fat, the risk of incident coronary heart disease was 26% 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.
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 yogurt, quark, and cheeses, have gained in popularity.”
The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition.