Dairy ‘does not increase heart attack or stroke risk’

Diets high in dairy has a 'neutral' impact on human health

The Dairy Council has welcomed the findings of a report that claimed eating lots of cheese, yogurt and milk does not increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The report, published this week (May 8) by researchers at three universities, found no link between milk, total dairy, high or low-fat dairy and coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. The Dairy Council said the findings were further proof that claims dairy played a role in developing heart attacks or strokes were inaccurate.

The Dairy Council director of nutrition Anne Mullen said: “Milk and dairy foods are often misunderstood in regard to heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and are frequently targeted in saturated fat reduction initiatives.

‘A shift in evidence’

“However, research has evolved significantly and a growing body of work, such as this study, is showing that there has been a shift in the evidence base on milk, dairy and cardiometabolic health.”

Dairy is more complex than just saturated fat, Mullen said. To appreciate the impact milk and dairy had on our health, we needed to look at its nutrients as a whole, she added.

“Consumers have become more concerned about saturated fat, and as it is found in milk and dairy foods, it is often assumed dairy plays a role in the possibility of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes. However, when we look at the science, these claims are not supported.

“Recent debates on saturated fat do a disservice to the nutritional quality of foods such as milk and dairy.”

Neutral impact on human health

The report, from the universities of Reading, Copenhagen and Wageningen, used 29 previous studies on the link between dairy and heart attacks or strokes to arrive at the findings. It claimed diets high in dairy had a neutral impact on human health.

The findings came after a 2014 Swedish report – which claimed high milk consumption doubled the risk of cardiovascular disease in women – sparked debate among scientists over dairy’s role in maintaining a healthy diet.

Meanwhile, Public Health England has reduced the size of the dairy and dairy alternatives section of the new Eatwell Guide from 15% to 8%.

Read the full report  Milk and dairy consumption and risk of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studieshere.

Key report findings
  • No link between dairy consumption and risk of heart attacks or strokes
  • Meta-analysis of 29 previous studies
  • Results from 938,465 global participants over the past 35 years

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