I don't do well with soft foods – cottage cheese, pudding and yogurt make me feel like I've reverted to infancy. But if you're a yogurt fan, unlike me, I've got good news for you. According to a new study, eating yogurt may reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular problems. The study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, analyzed about 74,000 men and women with high blood pressure diagnoses. They found that people who ate yogurt more than two times a week had a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the study, researchers already knew that yogurt has been shown to help both high blood pressure and cardiovascular health problems in clinical trials, but this is the first study that looks at long-term yogurt intake. Lead author Justin Buendia, PhD, who works at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a press release that the study could change the way we look at what constitutes a healthy diet.
"We hypothesized that long-term yogurt intake might reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems since some previous small studies had shown beneficial effects of fermented dairy products," he said in the release. "Here, we had a very large cohort of hypertensive men and women, who were followed for up to 30 years. Our results provide important new evidence that yogurt may benefit heart health alone or as a consistent part of a diet rich in fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains."
The researchers examined two already existing datasets: the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which are both conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and funded by federal grants. Women who ate yogurt regularly were 17 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular problems, while men who loved the dairy treat had their risk lowered by 21 percent. So why is yogurt so freakin' good for you? Researchers are still figuring that out.
"In early clinical trials, the [blood pressure]-lowering effect of dairy was largely attributed to its calcium content. However, it has been shown by others that factors in dairy other than or in addition to dietary calcium may explain the beneficial effects on [blood pressure] and [cardiovascular disease] risk."
The authors of this study conclude that yogurt may help health by improving "vascular stiffness," which can lead to arteries becoming blocked and blood flow to your heart being stopped. Regardless of what the reason is for yogurt's heart health, it's clear that we should probably incorporate more of the stuff into our daily diets, even though the study has some limitations. It's possible that people who eat yogurt on a weekly basis are also eating other healthy foods and exercising regularly, which would improve their health overall In the lower their risk of disease with or without yogurt. Researchers also aren't sure whether yogurt with added probiotics has any additional effect on heart health, so you don't necessarily need to splurge on the good stuff.
Still, if you're looking for an easy way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems down the road, stopping in the dairy aisle the next time you're at a supermarket could be a great start. The researchers emphasized that yogurt should be combined with an "overall heart-healthy diet" to mitigate risk, but if you survive off of chicken tenders and takeout like I do, I'm guessing that yogurt can't hurt. Do I still hate the concept of yogurt? That's a definitive yes. The only yogurt that's okay in my book is frozen yogurt, which is basically ice cream. But as I get older, I may begrudgingly incorporate the snack into my diet. It's not a miracle worker, but it could help in surprising ways.