Eating cheese, yoghurt and kefir could protect you from a heart attack

Say cheese! Eating fermented dairy products such as cheddar, sour cream and yoghurt reduces your risk of a heart disease

  • University of Eastern Finland studied the health 2,000 men over 25-year period 
  • Out of these, 472 men experienced an incident coronary heart disease event 
  • However, those who often consumed low-fat dairy were 26 per cent less at risk  

Cheese lovers rejoice – eating cheddar, stilton and brie could reduce your risk of heart disease.

Finnish experts found eating fermented dairy products can lower the risk of the world’s leading killer – but only in men.

Researchers tracked hundreds of participants over a 25-year period to make the conclusion, published in a scientific journal.

Academics at the University of Eastern Finland studied thousands of participants over a 25-year period to determine how the fermentation process can boost heart health

This contradicts claims cheese can block a person’s arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack because they are high in saturated fat.

Their data, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests fermented dairy products have positive effects on cholesterol.

Conversely, a very high consumption of non-fermented dairy items, such as ice-cream and butter, suggested an increased risk. 

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Approximately 2,000 men participated in the University of Eastern Finland analysis, which remains on-going. 

Their dietary habits were assessed at the beginning of the study between 1984 and 1989, then followed up for an average of 20 years.

The participants were divided into groups on the basis of how much dairy they ate, while also taking various lifestyle and nutrition factors into consideration.

The data, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests that products such as sour cream, kefir and yoghurt have positive effects on blood lipid profiles


– Heart and circulatory disease causes more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths in the UK; that’s nearly 160,000 deaths each year – an average of 435 people each day or one death every three minutes.

– There are around 7 million people living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK: 3.5 million men and 3.5 million women.

– Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of cardiovascular disease.

– Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of heart attack. In the UK there are 188,000 hospital visits each year due to heart attacks: that’s one every three minutes.

– An estimated 915,000 people alive in the UK today (640,000 men and 275,000 women) have survived a heart attack.

– Over half a million people in the UK are living with heart failure.

– There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year. The overall survival rate in the UK is less than 1 in 10

SOURCE: British Heart Foundation 

By the follow-up period, 472 of the male participants had experienced an incident coronary heart disease event – such as a heart attack.

However, when the researchers analysed the four groups, they uncovered a stark difference in risk of having a heart attack or other cardiac event.

Those with the highest consumption of fermented dairy products which contained less than 3.5 per cent fat had a 26 per cent lower risk than those with the lowest consumption.

Sour milk was the most commonly used low fat fermented dairy product among the participants.

It’s not clear why fermented products offer more benefits, but it may be linked to compounds forming during the fermentation process. 

And the study found a very high consumption of non-fermented dairy products was linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease. 

Dr Jyrki Virtanen, study co-author, said: ‘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.’ 

Saturated fats have been demonised since the 1970s after a major study linked them to high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).

Several trials have since added fuel to the fire, by bolstering the link between the fat – found in butter – and boosted cholesterol levels. 

But confusion over the safety of saturated fat has intensified in recent years, amid studies that have shown the fat can actually boost ‘good’ cholesterol levels (HDL).


Public Health England recommend adults get 35 per cent of their energy intake from fat and 50 per cent from carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta and sugar.

It also says no more than 11 per cent should come from saturated fat, which is found in cheese, butter and cream.

Dr Malhotra, who for years has fought against the advice that fat should be cut, argued this decision is responsible for the obesity crisis.

He is an advocate of the fat-packed Mediterranean diet, which is credited for helping people to lose weight and protect against heart disease.

Consuming more fruit and fish, and fewer sugary drinks and snacks, are the most important aspects of a Mediterranean diet. 


Fruits and vegetables

Legumes, nuts and seeds 

Whole grains

Oily fish and meat 

Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil


Saturated fats, such as butter

Red meat 

Processed foods



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