|Emma McGowan NatureCity author & contributor|
Dairy products are not usually associated with good heart health, mainly due to a high fat content. A recent study, however, suggests that yogurt may reduce the thickening and hardening of arteries in mature women.
The researchers were based at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Australia. The study was published in the July 2011 issue of American Society for Nutrition.
Participants in the study included 1080 women over the age of 70. At the onset of the study, various measurements of both the left and right carotid arteries were taken in order to determine mean intima-media thickness. Intima-media thickness (CCA-IMT) is a measurement of the thickness of artery walls.
Additionally, serum lipids and blood pressure, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease,were measured.
In order to determine how much dairy the participants consumed, food frequency questionnaires were completed by all of the women. The researchers assisted in the questionnaires, using spoons, cups, charts, and food models to ensure identical consumption measurements.
After three years, carotid artery measurements were taken again. Lifestyle risks such as body mass index, smoking history, and physical activity were also assessed. The researchers found that the women who ate at least 100 grams of yogurt per day (one normal sized individual container) had significantly lower CCA-IMT than those who consumed less than 100 grams per day.
They also noted higher HDL (good) cholesterol in the high yogurt intake group. HDL cholesterol is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
There was no association found between higher intakes of cheese and milk and lower CCA-IMT.
Previous studies have shown yogurt to improve bone health, provide good bacteria for gut health, and may even be associated with weight loss. If you want to add more yogurt to your diet, be sure to stick with a low or no fat brand, as higher fat intake can reverse the positive health benefits.