Dairy consumption may not lead to higher risk of cardiovascular disease

Danny Kim for TIME

Danny Kim for TIME

A new study in the Lancet finds that milk really does a body good.

People who consumed three portions of full-fat milk, butter, cheese or yoghurt were a quarter less likely to succumb to an early death, compared with those who ate less than half a serving a day.

The worldwide collaboration of researchers asked over 135,000 people in 21 countries to complete a food diary at the beginning of the study, and followed their health for an average of 9.1 years.

"About three servings of dairy a day is said to a lower threat of mortality and heart problems", says see co-author Mahshid Dehghan, a nutrition epidemiology researcher on the Population Smartly being Analysis Institute in Canada.

However, it was noted that evidence suggests that some saturated fats may be beneficial to cardiovascular health, and dairy products may also contain other potentially beneficial compounds, including specific amino acids, unsaturated fats, vitamin K1 and K2, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and potentially probiotics.

They say that the findings are not "the ultimate seal of approval for recommending whole-fat dairy over its low-fat or skimmed counterparts".

The findings would not be so controversial and surprising if they didn't go completely against conventional dietary advice.

Dairy consumption was highest in North America and Europe at more than four servings of total dairy per day and lowest in south Asia, China, Africa and southeast Asia at less than 1 serving of total dairy per day. Nor does it show that full-fat dairy is better than low-fat dairy.

Overall, eating more than two servings of dairy per day was associated with a 22% lower risk of major cardiovascular disease (defined as death from cardiovascular causes, nonfatal MI, stroke, or heart failure) compared with eating no dairy.

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Dr, Ian Givens, Professor of Food Chain Nutrition at Reading University, who was not involved in the study, told Newsweek: "The study will add to the suggestion that dietary guidelines should consider foods as well as nutrients".

Experts behind the latest study said dairy should not be discouraged and perhaps be encouraged in countries where dairy consumption is low.

One standard serving of dairy is defined by the authors of the study as equivalent to a glass of milk, just under 250g yoghurt, one 15g slice of cheese at or a teaspoon of butter.

The guideline-based recommendations focusing on low-fat dairy products, as well as the focus on saturated fat, need to account for data derived from countries outside the USA or Europe, according to the PURE researchers.

The research notes that consuming full-fat diary may have health benefits obscured by the perceived impact of saturated fats on cholesterol. "Last year, we published results from PURE showing that saturated fat was inversely associated with mortality".

The American Heart Association has recommendations for a heart-healthy diet.

In a linked Comment, Jimmy Chun Yu Louie of the University of Hong Kong and Anna M. Rangan of the University of Sydney wrote consumers don't need to necessarily change their consumption. The dairy intake was self-reported by the individuals through a questionnaire. "Three servings is moderate consumption, and moderate consumption is beneficial".

For years, specialists like advised low-corpulent dairy merchandise over the fleshy-corpulent versions, that are larger in energy and have confidence extra saturated corpulent. Moreover, they suggest that follow-up of 9 years is relatively short, particularly given that entry criteria for the study included those as young as 35 years old, most of whom would have been quite healthy at the time of enrollment.

That's because of the higher fat content of whole fat dairy. "However, ideally our findings require confirmation in randomized trials evaluating the effects of increasing dairy consumption on BP, glucose, and clinical outcomes", Dehghan added.

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