Daily milk consumption linked to lower cardiovascular rates, mortality

Alicia Farmer
September 14, 2018

However, a new study concluded that whole-fat milk could be healthier than we think, and we should consume it frequently. A higher intake of total dairy-three servings per day-was associated with a lower risk of death and there was no significant association with heart attacks.

The researchers evaluated over 136,000 individuals (ages 35-70) across 21 countries.

Of PURE participants who consumed full-fat dairy, three or so servings a day was associated with lower rates of total mortality and major cardiovascular disease, compared to those who consumed nearly no full-fat dairy a day. They agree with Dehghan and the PURE researchers in that dairy consumption should be encouraged in low-to-middle income countries, but say "it is not the ultimate seal of approval for recommending whole-fat dairy over its low-fat or skimmed counterparts".

However, 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.

However, as the study was observational, the scientists could not prove that eating dairy prevents heart disease or lowers a person's risk of dying.

Comment on dairy consumption generally, she added: "It's not advisable for people to reduce their intake of lower fat options if they are concerned".

Higher intake of milk and yoghurt - above one serving per day - was associated with lower rates of the composite outcome, which combines total mortality and cardiovascular disease, compared to no consumption.

A large-scale study found that full-fat dairy products may help you live longer.

Compared to the no intake group, the high intake group (mean intake of 3.2 servings per day) had lower rates of total mortality (3.4% vs 5.6%), non-cardiovascular mortality (2.5% vs 4%), cardiovascular mortality (0.9% vs 1.6%), major cardiovascular disease (3.5% vs 4.9%), and stroke (1.2% vs 2.9%).

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The PURE study has been controversial for a wide range of findings contravening conventional dietary advice, from salt to vegetable intake.

For starters, dairy wasn't bad yesterday - the Australian Dietary Guidelines now prescribe 2.5 daily serves of "milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)", and they're based in slow-moving-but-solid science.

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

After analyzing the diets of over 130,000 people in nearly two dozen countries, scientists concluded the equivalent of one serving of full fat milk or yogurt at 244g, a15g slice of cheese or a teaspoon of butter could be beneficial to health.

Dehghan pointed out that some people avoid dairy because of its saturated-fat content, because fat has more calories and because saturated fat has been linked to higher "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. She added that it is wrong to focus only on a single nutrient - namely fat.

Earlier this year the Government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published a consultation on saturated fat, which is part of a process of regularly assessing available evidence to see if guidelines should change.

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

There were no noteworthy connections between myocardial infarction and dairy intake (HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.71-1.11; P=0.163). "We're saying moderate consumption, regardless of fat, is safe", she said. "Therefore, when you're focusing on low-fat dairy, we're scaring people about the harms". Like most nutrition science, it relies on self-reported data from PURE participants about what they ate - data which is likely to be inaccurate.

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