A new study performed in Finland has found a connection between the consumption of dairy products and the risk of coronary heart disease. The researchers were building off of previous data that recognized an association between the consumption of fermented dairy products and blood lipid profiles.
Dairy products considered to be fermented include cheese, yogurt, quark, kefir, and sour milk. The consumption of these products was found to have the most beneficial effects on blood lipid profiles relating to coronary heart disease.
Information on the topic has remained limited, which is why the researchers, in this case, undertook their study. The participants in the study were 2,000 men. The dietary habits of the participants were recorded and analyzed by the researchers from the University of Eastern Finland. On average, the participants engaged with the study for a follow-up period of 20 years. At the end of the analysis, the participants were divided into categories based on their levels of intake of fermented and non-fermented dairy products.
Low-Fat Fermented Dairy Products Best for Heart Health
In total, 472 participants suffered a coronary event (heart attack) by the end of the study period. Those who had the highest consumption rates of fermented dairy products with less than 3.5 percent fat had a 26 percent lower likelihood of having a heart attack compared to those in the lowest consumption category.
Of these products, sour milk was the most commonly consumed. The researchers did not find that a higher or lower consumption of fermented dairy products with a more than 3.5 percent fat content had any significant effect on the risk of heart attack in the participants. High fat fermented dairy products include cheese.
Regarding non-fermented dairy products, the researchers noted that an increased consumption of these products was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. These products include milk, which was the most popularly consumed in the category. In this case, the researchers defined having a high consumption as the intake of nearly 1 liter of milk per day. Those who consumed less than this, on average, did not experience this same increase in their risk of developing coronary heart disease.
This study currently extends its findings only to men and additional research will be needed to examine whether these results are the same in female participants. The results of the research are also limited by geographic location and the differing dairy consumption trends across the globe could certainly play a role in changing the results of a similar study performed elsewhere in the world. These consumption trends are also affected by time and government dietary recommendations, which can both alter perceptions of a healthy rate of dairy consumption.
“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,” says Jyrki Virtanen, one of the researchers behind the study.
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