Yogurt might hold answers to better heart health, according to a study based on data from over 190,000 Veterans.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths. The same holds true in the VA health care system, where cardiovascular disease is the leading cause for hospitalizations and many major disabilities.
One way to improve heart health is to eat a healthy diet with low-fat dairy products. But which ones help the most, and how much is the right amount? Are some dairy products healthier for certain people more than others?
A case for probiotics
Dr. Kerry Ivey, a dietitian and nutritional epidemiologist at the Boston VA and Harvard School of Public Health, was on a quest for answers. The best place to look was the Million Veteran Program (MVP), VA’s largest research program with health, lifestyle and genetic data from more than 870,000 Veteran volunteers.
“Good cholesterol was higher in 192,564 Veterans in MVP who reported eating any amount of yogurt in their daily diet,” reported Dr. Ivey, who was the lead author on the study with other VA and Harvard researchers. This good cholesterol, also known as HDL, can reduce one’s risk of heart disease and increase longevity.
How much yogurt is the right amount to eat? “We saw just a little bit is better than none for improving cardiovascular health,” Dr. Ivey said. Essentially, yogurt in any amount is helpful.
Yogurt, of any kind, is good for everyone
“The data we looked at indicates that whether it’s flavored or Greek, all yogurt is good for the heart,” Dr. Ivey added. “The more yogurt you eat, the more benefit you get.” That’s because when Veterans consumed more yogurt, of any kind, their HDL cholesterol was higher and triglycerides were lower. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood that increase risk of cardiovascular disease.
Not all dairy is made equal, Dr. Ivey noted. “The health benefits of daily yogurt consumption stood apart from other dairy in people’s diet, such as milk and cheese. This leads us to believe the probiotics in yogurt, not found in other dairy, might be the key ingredient.”
Yogurt also seems to be good for people of many different backgrounds, potentially everyone. Of the 192,564 Veterans in the study, 12% were of African descent. “We had a lot of representation among African Americans in our study and we saw the relationship between yogurt and heart health was the same for both people of African and European descent,” Dr. Ivey said.
Join VA’s Million Veteran Program today to advance research for heart disease for all Veterans.
Research findings such as these would not have been possible without the help of Veterans in MVP, Dr. Ivey said.
By joining MVP, you support VA in better understanding, preventing and treating diseases for all Veterans. If more Veterans of all backgrounds join, approved VA researchers like Dr. Ivey can work on more discoveries and breakthroughs in diseases like heart disease where Veterans deserve specialized care.
Personal identifying information like name, date of birth or social security number is removed before the data is shared for any approved research.
To learn more and join today, visit mvp.va.gov or call 866-441-6075. You do not need to be enrolled in VA health care to sign up.