Total avoidance of dairy products may not be the best choice for heart health

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New research among the world’s largest consumers of dairy products has shown that people with higher milk fat intakes, which are measured by the level of fatty acids in the blood, have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to people who have a lower intake. At the same time, higher consumption of dairy fats was not associated with an increased risk of death.

Dr. Matti Marklund of the George Institute for Global Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Uppsala University said that as global dairy consumption increases, a better understanding of its impact on health is needed. In order to obtain the necessary information, the blood levels of certain fatty acids were measured, considered the “basic elements” of the fats found in dairy products.

“We found that people with the highest levels of such fats actually have the lowest risk of CVD. These relationships are extremely interesting, but we need further studies to better understand the full health impact of dairy fats and dairy foods,” said Dr. Matti.

Consumption of dairy products in Sweden is among the highest in the world. An international collaboration between researchers from Sweden, USA and Australia evaluated the consumption of dairy fats in 4150 Swedes, aged 60, measuring the blood levels of a certain fatty acid. It is found mainly in dairy foods and therefore can be used to reflect the consumption of fatty dairy products.

The selected Swedes were then monitored for about 16 years to find out how many people had heart attacks, strokes and other serious circulatory events, as well as how many died from any other cause during this time.

After statistical adjustment on other known risk factors for CVD, including issues such as age, income, lifestyle, eating habits and other diseases, the risk of CVD was lower for those with high levels of fatty acids. Therefore, those with the highest such levels did not have an increased risk of death.

“While some dietary guidelines still suggest that consumers choose low-fat dairy products, other nutritionists have moved away from this advice, suggesting that dairy products may be part of a healthy diet, with a focus on selecting certain foods, fermented dairy foods – for example, yogurt, rather than butter – or avoiding sweetened dairy products that are loaded with sugar,” said Dr. Matti Marklund.

“Growing evidence suggests that the health impact of dairy products may be more dependent on the type of dairy product – such as cheese, yogurt, milk and butter – rather than fat content, which has raised doubts if the avoidance of dairy fats in general is beneficial for cardiovascular health “, said Dr. Trieu, co-author of the research.

Therefore, the study suggests that reducing milk fat or avoiding dairy products altogether may not be the best choice for heart health.

“It is important to remember that although dairy foods can be rich in saturated fats, they are also rich in many other nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet. However, other fats, such as those from seafood, nuts and tropical vegetable oils, may have greater health benefits than dairy fats,” added Dr. Trieu.

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