A new Danish study shows a connection between eating full-fat fermented milk products and avoiding strokes. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Full-fat fermented milk products linked to lower risk of stroke

Results could prompt authorities to rethink dairy product recommendations, says scientist.

If your daily intake of dairy products leans towards fermented milk products, you probably have a lower risk of developing a blood clot in the brain, shows a new study.

The risk is lowest among people who eat fermented dairy products like full-fat yoghurt and buttermilk instead of reduced fat milk products and cheese.

The study looked at 55,000 people in Denmark and it is the first of its kind to consider the risk of strokes related to the type of dairy produce that people eat, including semi-skimmed milk, buttermilk, yoghurt, cheese, and more.

“It’s a new way of analysing data where we compare a range of dairy products with each other in relation to stroke. Our results indicate that the risk is lowest among people who eat more full-fat fermented milk products in place of other dairy products,” says PhD student Anne Sofie Dam Laursen from the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University, Denmark.

The new results are published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

A re-evaluation of recommendations

The new study prompts us to reconsider which dairy products public health authorities should recommend, says Tanja Kongerslev Thorning, a postdoc in the Department for Sport and Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Perhaps we should look at which specific dairy products we should recommend and not whether they are full-fat or low-fat. There are many differences between dairy products,” says Thorning.

“Cheese and yoghurt are both fermented dairy products—meaning that they contain beneficial lactic acid bacteria, but cheese contains more salt than yoghurt for example, and it means that you can’t just cut all full-fat or low-fat dairy products indiscriminately/with a broad brush. This is what the new study illustrates,” she says.

Thorning also emphasises that the new study does not show, for example, that low-fat milk is worse for your health. Rather, it shows that swapping them for full-fat fermented milk products is associated with a lower risk of strokes.

“It seems that yoghurt and other full-fat fermented milk products have some kind of protective effect, which I think is exciting and relevant to study closer,” she says.

An effect from sources other than fat?

According to Hanne Christine Bertram, a professor in the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University, Denmark, the results fit well with other studies—specifically that fermented milk products have a positive effect on health.

“One possible explanation is that fermented milk products leads to increased amounts of the beneficial short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which has an effect on the regulation of blood pressure. Other studies have likewise suggested that the body takes up saturated fat from dairy produce differently, and therefore has a modulating effect compared with saturated fat from other sources,” says Bertram.

Fat does not reduce the risk of blood clots

Laursen explains that the study does not explain why full-fat fermented milk products may protect against strokes better than other milk products, but it could be due to a combination of nutrients in a range of milk produce, she says.

“There’s a complex interplay between nutrients in these products, and this is probably what we’re seeing in the results,” she says.

For example, there is no difference in the risk of stroke associated with drinking full-fat or semi-skimmed milk. But conversely, they saw that it is better to eat full-fat than low-fat fermented products.

“If it had something to do with the fat percentage, then we’d probably see that full-fat milk was better at preventing strokes than semi-skimmed, but we didn’t see that,” says Laursen.

Likewise, it is not possible to say whether full-fat fermented milk products reduce the risk of developing strokes or whether other dairy products increase the risk.

Read more in the Danish version of this story on Videnskab.dk

Translated by: Catherine Jex

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