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Research gives full-fat dairy the thumbs-up

If you’re conscious of the health of your heart and blood vessels you’re probably aware that the Heart Foundation recommends reduced-fat dairy to lower saturated fat intake. Many researchers are recommending something quite different though.

A big, long-running international study coordinated from Canada has linked whole-fat dairy intake with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The results were published this month in the prestigious medical journal, Lancet.

The study included over 130,000 participants aged 35-70 years, from 21 countries on five continents. On average people were followed for nine years.

The results showed that two or more servings of full-fat dairy per day were associated with a 22% lower risk from heart disease, 34% lower risk of stroke, and 23% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. 

One serving was equivalent to a cup of milk or yoghurt, a teaspoon of butter or a slice of cheese (about 15 grams). 

The results for cheese and butter weren’t as clear-cut as those for milk and yoghurt, but the lack of result for butter was attributed to the fact that so few people in this study ate much of it.

Dietary research is tricky because our lives and our health involve much more than what we eat, but notwithstanding that, numerous investigations have shown that full-fat dairy has a neutral or positive effect on our cardiovascular health. It certainly hasn’t been shown to increase our risk of heart disease or stroke. 

In fact, the big concern showing up in international studies like this is that many people, especially in poorer countries, get at least 60% of their caloric intake from refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice.

High intakes of refined carbs result in higher blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and an increased risk of stroke. 

Most studies don’t show any link between full-fat dairy intake and higher LDL cholesterol, though one argued that how our diet affects our cholesterol may be determined by our genes.

Another points out that full-fat dairy is far more than just saturated fat. These are complex foods containing a range of nutrients which may limit any cholesterol-raising effect. 

In summary, the science is telling us that the healthiest diet for our cardiovascular health includes a variety of good quality fats (including unsaturated fats such as olive oil and nuts) and unprocessed carbs, i.e. vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes. 

Unfortunately, for those of you who enjoy your butter in slabs, much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, nobody’s saying that’s a good idea. Sorry.

Photo Source: Bigstock

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Sunday, September 23, 2018 | Rhonda Anderson