May 20, 2020 at 04:03AM
It’s no secret that low-fat diets are a fad of the past, but the debate about the health value of dairy lives on. As research into the impact of different diets on health increases, researchers continue to find evidence that fat and dairy may have their own health benefits.
Giving the research a global perspective.
A new study, published yesterday in British Medical Journals: Open Diabetes Research & Care, explored the relationship between dairy and health on a global level—and concluded that the secret to reaping the most health benefits may be full-fat dairy.
While previous studies have shown that higher intake of dairy is associated with a lower risk of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, this study expanded beyond those by including data from all over the world—not just Europe and North America.
Using data collected from 21 countries, the researchers collected data sets to find evidence of the relationship between dairy intake and risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes across different cultures and dietary habits.
Assessing the relationship between dairy and disease.
Dairy was defined as milk, yogurt, yogurt drinks, cheese, and dishes prepared with dairy products, and it was noted whether they were full- or low-fat products. Because they’re not common ingredients in some of the countries involved in the study, the researchers track butter and cream consumption separately.
In relation to cardiovascular disease, the researchers saw that those who consumed dairy, and, in particular, full-fat dairy, twice a day were less likely to experience symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess stomach fat, high blood fats, and abnormal cholesterol levels and is a risk factor for heart disease.
They found that two daily servings of any dairy product were linked to 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, while two daily servings of full-fat dairy, in particular, showed a 28% lower risk—both compared to no dairy at all.
Overall, the researchers saw that two servings of dairy per day was associated with an 11 to 12% lower risk of both diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which rose to 13 to 14% lower risk with an additional daily serving.
Can dairy really make a difference?
While these results are exciting, the authors of the study were sure to point out that this was an observational study, meaning they can’t say that the dairy is the definite cause of the lower risk.
“If our findings are confirmed,” they wrote, “then increasing dairy consumption may represent a feasible and low-cost approach to reducing [metabolic syndrome], hypertension, diabetes, and ultimately cardiovascular disease events worldwide.”