Dairy products do not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to several recent studies. Researchers at the University College Dublin in Ireland examined 1,500 participants aged 18 to 90 and found no significant difference in LDL cholesterol levels between the high-level consumers, low-level consumers and the non-consuming controls. Researchers also found that cheese consumption was not associated with increased weight gain among participants. "We have to consider not just the nutrients themselves but also the matrix in which we are eating them in and what the overall dietary pattern is. So not just about the food then, but the pattern of other foods we eat with them as well," said study author Dr. Emma Feeney. The results appear in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.
Another study published in the journal Nutrition supports this claim. Researchers examined 3,630 middle-aged Costa Rican men and women, who were divided into two groups: Non-fatal heart attack survivors and the control group of people who had not had a heart attack. Research data revealed that dairy consumption was no different between the two groups, and there was no correlation between high dairy intake and heart attack risk even among those in the highest quintile of dairy consumption.
“Things like milk and cheese are very complex substances. We looked at [heart attack risk and] dairy products in their entirety and then looked at separate components of those dairy products, including fats, and it turns out that the results are null. Perhaps the evidence is not there,” study lead author Stella Aslibekyan stated.
“The message is that it is important to look at the net effect of whole foods and dietary patterns and not only isolated nutrients,” said study co-author Ana Baylin.
A study published in the journal Scientific Reports further clarifies that dairy consumption has nothing to do with higher odds of cardiovascular disease. An analysis of more than 20,000 participants revealed that high dairy intake among those who carried the gene mutation MCM6, which was linked to lactose tolerance, did not result in increased odds of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. The findings demonstrate that dairy products were not associated with cardiovascular biomarkers.
More research has dismissed the harmful effects of dairy products on cardiovascular health. In line with this, more studies have been surfacing supporting claims that consuming dairy products may actually prove beneficial for the heart. Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway examined 40 obese men and found that those who followed a low-carb, high-fat diet lost as much weight as those who were on a low-fat, high-carb diet. The average weight loss was about 12 kg, enough to lower their risk of obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Participants in the low-carb, high-fat diet consumed dairy products such as butter and cheese to compensate for the low carbohydrate requirement of their designated diet. The results suggest that the human body “can do perfectly well with fats as its main energy source,” said lead researcher Simon Dankel.
“People will say: ‘you can’t lose weight, you can’t go on any diets with saturated fats, no matter what.’ But in this context, we see a very positive metabolic response. You can base your energy in your diet on either on carbohydrates or fat. It doesn’t make a big difference," Dankel said.