Whole yogurt, a high cholesterol food, may actually reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood and available to clog the arteries.
Accidental findings of a study made with the Masai tribe in Africa indicate that some substance in yogurt may be capable of lowering the amount of cholesterol the body produces. The African study led to an experiment with adult Americans at Vanderbilt University which substantiated that large amounts of yogurt in the diet reduces the cholesterol level in the blood.
The African study was conducted by Dr. George V. Mann, associate professor of Biochemistry and Medicine at Vanderbilt. It was originally intended to explore the effects surfactants, a widely used class of food additive, have upon blood cholesterol levels.
Surfactants make oil or water more mixable and are commonly used in this country in such commercially produced foods as mayonnaise, ice cream, chocolate and baked goods, as well as in detergents.
Dr. Mann chose for the study a group of Masai tribesmen, a primitive nomadic people he has studied intensively for the last decade because they are usually resistant to heart disease despite a milk-and-meat diet heavily laden with animal fats and cholesterol.
Dr. Mann found that blood cholesterol levels rose when surfactants were added to the diets of animals in experiments. He suspects that the yogurt bacteria produce a substance, probably a small fatty acid, that blocks cholesterol production in the liver. He is now testing various fractions of yogurt to isolate the precise substance that has this effect.
But whatever the results of his study, Dr. Mann emphasized that diet was certainly not the only factor that protected the Masai from heart disease. The average Masai walks up to 25 miles a day.