A surprising find people who consume more dairy fat, such as cheeses, whole milk, yogurt, and real butter, have a lower risk of heart disease than those who eat less, a new study of the world’s biggest consumers has found.
For years, you may have heard you need to improve your heart health by avoiding butter and eating margarine, consuming low-fat or skim milk, low-fat cheeses, low-fat yogurt and so on.
But a new study has seemingly found the opposite. Researchers studied a large group (4,150) of 60-year-olds in Sweden, the world’s highest consumers of dairy fat. The researchers followed the participants for an average of 16 years, observing cardiac events, including serious circulatory events, heart attacks, strokes, and how many died.
Further, the researchers combined the Swedish results with 17 other studies that involved nearly 43,000 people from the US, Denmark, and the UK, CNN Health reports.
The research was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
What the researchers found was essentially the opposite of what has been touted for years, that people should be consuming low-fat when it comes to eating dairy-based foods, which consequently resulted in a plethora of low-fat and “heart health” dairy products on store shelves.
Researchers found that the subjects who had high levels of a fatty acid that was indicative of a high intake of dairy fats – had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as no increased risk of death from all causes.
“While the findings may be partly influenced by factors other than dairy fat, our study does not suggest any harm of dairy fat per se,” Matti Marklund, joint senior author of the paper and a senior researcher at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, wrote in a statement. “We found those with the highest levels actually had the lowest risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease). These relationships are highly interesting, but we need further studies to better understand the full health impact of dairy fats and dairy foods.”
The lead author of the study touted the nutrients dairy products provide, emphasizing that one needs to consider the specific type and its benefits when consuming dairy.
“Increasing evidence suggests that the health impact of dairy foods may be more dependent on the type – such as cheese, yoghurt, milk, and butter — – than the fat content, which has raised doubts if avoidance of dairy fats overall is beneficial for cardiovascular health,” said Kathy Trieu, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the George Institute in a statement. “Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for heart health.”
“It is important to remember that although dairy foods can be rich in saturated fat, they are also rich in many other nutrients and can be a part of a healthy diet,” Trieu added. “However, other fats like those found in seafood, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils can have greater health benefits than dairy fats.”