Study Suggests People Who Eat More Dairy Fat Have Lower Risk Of Heart Disease

The Lempert Report
October 15, 2021

Contrary to what we've been told for years...

An international team of scientists studied the dairy fat consumption of 4,150 Sixty-year-olds in Sweden – Sweden’s population has one of the world's highest levels of dairy consumption. They stated out by measuring the blood levels of a particular fatty acid that is mostly found in dairy foods. Experts then followed the cohort for an average of 16 years to observe how many had heart attacks, strokes and other serious circulatory events, and how many of them died. Researchers found that those with high levels of the fatty acid-- had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as no increased risk of death from all causes.

Then the researchers confirmed these findings in other populations after combining the Swedish results with 17 other studies involving a total of almost 43,000 people from the US, Denmark and the UK. Matti Marklund, senior researcher at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney and joint senior author of the paper, said 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 study went on to say that Increasing evidence suggests that the health impact of dairy foods may be more dependent on the type -- such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter -- rather than the fat content, which has raised doubts if avoidance of dairy fats overall is beneficial for cardiovascular health. 

"Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for heart health," Marklund added. There is an important caveat, they also added that "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. However, other fats like those found in seafood, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils can have greater health benefits than dairy fats.

Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at Tufts University's Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, told CNN that her biggest concern was that the study results could be interpreted to suggest that all full-fat dairy products will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, adding: "the bulk of the data do not support consuming full fat dairy products to reduce CVD risk."  She said the study data showed that the group with the highest biomarker of dairy intake also had, among other things, a significantly lower BMI, were more physically active, had a lower smoking rate, lower rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a higher level of education, higher intakes of vegetables, fruit and fish, and lower intake of processed meat -- hence, a higher diet quality -- all factors associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

So just maybe there is more to the headline of high-dairy fat and heart disease?  So what can we expect as an outcome? Lots more confusion. Lots more advertising and social media pushing high fat dairy. Topline is we need to take a more holistic look at these studies – what we eat, how we live, the composition of our bodies – all the factors before we start publicizing and misleading our shoppers.