Eating cheese reduces risk of heart disease, study claims

Men who eat fermented dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and sour milk have a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, according to a new study by the University of Eastern Finland.

However, high consumption of non-fermented dairy products was associated with an increased risk of the disease.

The researchers, from the University of Eastern Finland, studied the dietary habits of 2,000 men over a period 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.

When the study participants were divided into four groups on the basis of their consumption of fermented dairy products with less than 3.5 per cent fat, the risk of incident coronary heart disease was 26 per cent lower in the highest consumption group compared to the lowest consumption group.

However, the researchers found that a very high consumption on 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.

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.