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Drinking full-fat milk can 'lower the risk of heart disease'

Good news for whole-fat milk enthusiasts – a new study suggests consuming same can lower your chances of death by heart disease.

shutterstock_640048081 Source: Shutterstock/Alter-ego

CONSUMING THREE PORTIONS of full fat milk a day could lower rates of heart disease, according to a new study.

The study, carried out on a global observational cohort of 130,000 people in 21 countries and published in The Lancet, suggests that up to three servings per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as opposed to lower levels of consumption.

While that claim is broadly in line with previous analyses and observational studies of people’s heart health, it is contrary to the current dietary guidelines issued by health watchdogs worldwide, which suggests that two-to-four servings of fat-free dairy each day is optimal.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in people worldwide.

The new Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study looked at the dairy habits of 136,384 people aged between 35 and 70 in 21 countries.

Per the study, the highest consumption of dairy worldwide is in Europe and North America (more than four servings per day), and at its lowest in south and southeast Asia, China, and Africa (less than one serving per day).

Participants were followed up on after an initial questionnaire as to their dairy habits over an average of 9.1 years, with 6,796 deaths and 5,855 major heart-related events recorded in that time.


Compared to those who didn’t consume dairy, those in the high intake group, that is 3.2 servings per day, had lower rates of mortality – 3.4% versus 5.6%.

Even more striking, among those who consumed only whole-fat milk, those with a high intake (2.9 servings daily) displayed lower rates of mortality (3.3% versus 4.4%) than those with a low intake (less than 0.5 servings), and an even greater disparity with regard to cardiovascular disease (3.7% versus 5.0%).

The researchers seem less sure as to the reasons for these trends, with them stressing that further research is needed into why consuming more dairy could be a means of staving off heart trouble.

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Limitations of the study, meanwhile, include the fact the various diets were self-reported, and indicated intake at the beginning of the survey period only, although this fact was not expected to materially affect the findings.

“The results from the PURE study seem to suggest that dairy intake, especially whole-fat dairy, might be beneficial for preventing deaths and major cardiovascular diseases,” authors Jimmy Chun Yu Louie and Anna Rangan said of the study.

However, they added that the results only suggest the “consumption of dairy products should not be discouraged and perhaps even be encouraged in low-income and middle-income countries”, and that the study does not represent “the ultimate seal of approval” for whole-fat milk, and rather should be treated as another piece of evidence (albeit a large one) in the overall body of literature on the subject.

The full study can be read here

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