Yoghurt can help prevent the thickening of the arteries and thus ward off cardiovascular diseases.
An Australian study seems to show that moderate daily consumption of yoghurt prevents carotid artery intima-media thickness (CCA-IMT). But consumption of milk and cheese at the same level had little effect in neutralizing such thickening.
The findings of the researchers at Sir Charles Gardener Hospital have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a journal of the American Society for Nutrition. The report is titled 'Association between yoghurt, milk, and cheese consumption and common carotid artery intima-media thickness and cardiovascular disease risk factors in elderly women.'
"Through its role in reducing IMT, prolonged daily yoghurt consumption of 100 g/d may play a role in stroke and atherosclerosis prevention," and recommends further exploration of the benefits of yogurt and probiotics, " the report says.
Accredited practicing dietitian Kerry Ivey says the study emerged because of the lack of research into the effect of whole foods on CCA- IMT, especially in relation to dairy products.
"In general, dairy products get a bit of a bad rap in regards to cardiovascular disease, but there has been a demonstrated cardiovascular benefit in probiotic and yoghurt consumption," Miss Ivey says.
"We're trying to explore the benefits of yoghurt as distinct from their dairy characteristics."
The trial used a cohort of 1,080 Perth women over the age of 70, who had been randomly selected for a 'Calcium Intake and Fracture Outcome Study'.
Participants answered food frequency questionnaires with the aid of a research assistant who used food models, cups, spoons and charts to ensure identical measurements representing consumption were used.
Three different measurements of the left and right carotid arteries at two different angles were averaged out to find the participants mean intima-media thickness, both initially and after three years.
The participants' full medical history including BMI, smoking history, physical activity and lifestyle risk variables were put through statistical models.
Those with a high to moderate yoghurt consumption of 100grams per day or above had significantly lower CCA-IMT than those with yoghurt consumption of 100grams per day or less.
Research also highlighted that high milk and cheese consumption equalled higher CCA-IMT compared with high yogurt consumption.
HDL cholesterol was also increased due to moderate to high yoghurt consumption which is also beneficial as higher levels of HDL are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Miss Ivey says there are differing opinions as to why yoghurt is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
The research team at Sir Charles Gardener Hospital's Endocrinology and Diabetes unit are planning another study focused on yoghurt and its probiotics for metabolic syndrome to begin early 2012.