Dairy fat does not influence heart disease risk, study finds

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A study by scientists at the University of Washington has found that dairy fat does not increase or decrease the risk of heart disease.

Dairy products, made from milk from animals like cows, water buffalo, goats, and ewes, include common foods like cheese, butter, and yogurt, and are often high in saturated fat.

Traditional dietary guidelines suggest low-fat dairy to lower the risk of heart disease, but recent evidence shows that dairy fat may not have a negative impact when consumed in complex whole foods.

In this study, the researchers tested 72 people with metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease and examined the effects of diets limited in dairy or rich in either low-fat or full-fat dairy on heart disease risk.

Participants limited their dairy intake for four weeks, then were assigned to one of three diets for 12 weeks, either continuing the limited-dairy diet or switching to a diet containing low-fat or full-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.

The researchers examined changes in the participants’ fasting lipid profile and blood pressure, finding that there was no significant effect on blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels or diastolic blood pressure.

However, they did find a trend for a decrease in systolic blood pressure in the low-fat dairy diet compared to the limited-dairy diet, which was significant upon further analysis.

Overall, the team concluded that in people with metabolic syndrome, a diet rich in full-fat dairy had no effects on cholesterol or blood pressure compared to diets limited in dairy or rich in low-fat dairy.

Dairy fat, when consumed as part of complex whole foods, did not change heart disease risks in this group of people.

However, more research is needed to determine whether dairy fat affects heart health in other groups, such as healthy people.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and conducted by Kelsey A. Schmidt et al.

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