New Delhi: Fermented foods have always held a special place in Indian cuisine culture with curd, in its various forms like 'lassi' and 'chhaachh', being an intrinsic part of people's diets.
Yoghurt, a popular food import from the West, is also evolving as an alternative healthy snack food among Indian consumers.
Food experts suggest that yogurt, which is produced by bacterial fermentation of milk, can be a source of important nutrients, including protein.
Now, a study has claimed that consuming more than two servings of yogurt per week may lower the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
High blood pressure or hypertension is a major cardiovascular disease risk factor. Clinical trials have previously demonstrated beneficial effects of dairy consumption on cardiovascular health.
Yogurt may independently be related to cardiovascular disease risk, according to the study published in the American Journal of Hypertension.
"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," said Justin Buendia from Boston University School of Medicine in the US.
"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," said Buendia.
The research included over 55,000 women (aged 30-55) with high blood pressure from the Nurses' Health Study and 18,000 men (aged 40-75) who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.
Higher intakes of yogurt were associated with a 30 percent reduction in risk of myocardial infarction or heart attack among the Nurses' Health Study women and a 19 percent reduction in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study men.
There were 3,300 and 2,148 total cardiovascular disease cases (myocardial infarction, stroke, and revascularization) in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, respectively.
Higher yogurt intake in women was associated with a 16 percent lower risk of undergoing revascularization, according to researchers.
The surgical procedure places new blood vessels around existing blockages to restore necessary blood flow to the heart muscle.
In both groups, participants consuming more than two servings a week of yogurt had an approximately 20 percent lower risks of major coronary heart disease or stroke during the follow-up period, researchers said.
When revascularization was added to the total cardiovascular disease outcome variable, the risk estimates were reduced for both men and women, but remained significant, they said.
Higher yogurt intake in combination with an overall heart-healthy diet was associated with greater reductions in cardiovascular disease risk among hypertensive men and women.
(With PTI inputs)