An international team of scientists studied the milk fat intake of 4,150 people aged 60 in Sweden – a country with one of the highest levels of dairy production and consumption in the world – by measuring blood levels of a particular fatty acid that is mainly found in dairy products. Experts then followed the cohort for an average of 16 years to observe how many of them had had heart attacks, strokes and other serious circulatory events, and how many of them died.
After statistically adjusting for other known cardiovascular disease risk factors, including age, income, lifestyle, eating habits, and other illnesses, the researchers found that people with high levels of fatty acids – indicating a high intake of milk fat – presented the lowest risk. cardiovascular disease, as well as no increased risk of death from any cause.
The team then confirmed these results in other populations after combining the Swedish results with 17 other studies involving a total of nearly 43,000 people from the United States, Denmark and the United Kingdom.
“Although the results may be partly influenced by factors other than milk fat, our study does not suggest any harm to milk fat per se,” Matti Marklund, principal investigator at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney and co-author main article. , said in a statement.
“We found that those with the highest levels actually had the lowest risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease). These relationships are very interesting, but we need more studies to better understand the total impact on the health of dairy fats and dairy products, ”he said.
Lead author Kathy Trieu, a researcher at the George Institute, said consuming certain dairy products, especially fermented products, had previously been linked to heart benefits.
Dairy products are rich in nutrients
“Growing evidence suggests that the health impact of dairy products may depend more on type – like cheese, yogurt, milk and butter – rather than fat content, which has raised doubts as to whether avoiding dairy fat is overall beneficial for cardiovascular health, ”she said in the statement.
“Our study suggests that cutting back on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether may not be the best choice for heart health,” she added.
“It’s important to remember that while dairy products can be high in saturated fat, they are also high in many other nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet. However, other fats like those found in seafood, nuts and non-tropical vegetable oils may have greater health benefits than dairy fats, ”Trieu said.
Brian Power, a lecturer in the Department of Health and Nutritional Sciences at the Irish Institute of Technology in Sligo, said the study encourages us to “rethink what we think we know about food and disease”.
“Dairy products don’t need to be avoided,” Power, who was not on the study, told CNN in an email. “This is largely lost in its translation when communicating what we know about healthy eating.”
Data suggests correlation rather than causation
Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at Tufts University’s Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, told CNN that her greatest concern was that the study results could be interpreted as suggesting that all whole dairy products would reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, adding: “There is no evidence to support the consumption of whole dairy products to reduce the risk of CVD.”
She said study data showed that the group with the highest biomarker of dairy consumption also had a significantly lower BMI, were more physically active, and had a lower smoking rate, among other things. , lower rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a higher level of education, higher consumption of vegetables, fruits and fish, and lower consumption of processed meat – resulting in better diet quality – all factors associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
“They have been checked in statistical analyzes, however, residual confusion cannot be ruled out. The reported data is for associations, however, associations cannot establish causation,” she told CNN in an email, adding that it was also noteworthy that the authors could not identify the type of dairy products consumed by their cohort.