Peter Lloyd, The Daily Mail, Oct 30, 2018
Researchers tracked hundreds of participants over a 25-year period to make the conclusion, published in a scientific journal.
This contradicts claims cheese can block a person's arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack because they are high in saturated fat.
Their data, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests fermented dairy products have positive effects on cholesterol.
Conversely, a very high consumption of non-fermented dairy items, such as ice-cream and butter, suggested an increased risk.
Approximately 2,000 men participated in the University of Eastern Finland analysis, which remains on-going.
Their dietary habits were assessed at the beginning of the study between 1984 and 1989, then followed up for an average of 20 years.
The participants were divided into groups on the basis of how much dairy they ate, while also taking various lifestyle and nutrition factors into consideration.
By the follow-up period, 472 of the male participants had experienced an incident coronary heart disease event - such as a heart attack.
However, when the researchers analysed the four groups, they uncovered a stark difference in risk of having a heart attack or other cardiac event.
Those with the highest consumption of fermented dairy products which contained less than 3.5 per cent fat had a 26 per cent lower risk than those with the lowest consumption.
Sour milk was the most commonly used low fat fermented dairy product among the participants.
It's not clear why fermented products offer more benefits, but it may be linked to compounds forming during the fermentation process.
And the study found a very high consumption of non-fermented dairy products was linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
Dr Jyrki Virtanen, study co-author, said: 'In Finland, people's habits of consuming different dairy products have changed over the past decades.
'For instance, the consumption of milk and sour milk have declined, while many fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt, quark and cheeses, have gained in popularity.'
Saturated fats have been demonised since the 1970s after a major study linked them to high levels of 'bad' cholesterol (LDL).
Several trials have since added fuel to the fire, by bolstering the link between the fat - found in butter - and boosted cholesterol levels.
But confusion over the safety of saturated fat has intensified in recent years, amid studies that have shown the fat can actually boost 'good' cholesterol levels (HDL).
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