Research linking dairy foods with reduced risk of disease has continued to grow over the past decade, including in the area of cardiometabolic health. So what exactly does this mean? Generally, cardiometabolic health refers to heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes (T2D).
The International Food Information Council’s “2018 Food and Health Survey” identified cardiovascular health as the top desired consumer benefit. Weight management was second and T2D management was eighth.
There are several biomarkers that predict cardiometabolic health, including blood glucose levels, blood pressure, serum lipid levels and obesity. Abnormal values for these biomarkers are associated with poor metabolic health. The good news is that dairy foods, as part of healthy eating patterns, are linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), T2D, high blood pressure, stroke and inflammation — all cardiometabolic-related diseases.
In fact, a 2016 scientific review published in Advances in Nutrition, https://tinyurl.com/yy7ltqp4, concluded that eating dairy foods is not linked to higher risk for CVD or coronary artery disease; in fact, it is linked to a lower risk for stroke. That same review also found high- to moderate-quality evidence indicating dairy foods are associated with a lower risk for T2D.
Let’s look at some of the more recent studies related to this topic. One study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, https://tinyurl.com/y2jotxv8, showed that incorporating three to four servings of dairy foods in the Mediterranean diet — which typically includes only around two servings — lowered blood pressure and plasma triglycerides, as well as improved HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) and total cholesterol/HDL-C ratio in subjects at risk for CVD. All of these findings align with improvements that would indicate facilitating a lower risk of cardiometabolic diseases, based on the risk factors noted above.
The “Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology Study,” published in The Lancet, https://tinyurl.com/ya2gzzbw, found that eating dairy foods, regardless of the fat content, is linked to reduced risk of major CVD-related events and mortality. The results from this large multinational prospective study are consistent with the growing body of scientific evidence that has shown eating dairy foods having a variety of fat levels is associated with a neutral or reduced risk of CVD outcomes and mortality.
A study published in PLOS Medicine, https://tinyurl.com/yxzstgxm, found that people with higher circulating blood levels of biomarkers for dairy fat consumption had a 29% lower risk of T2D compared to those with lower levels of consumption. The study included data from 63,682 adults from multiple countries, representing multiple ethnic backgrounds and a broad range of baseline ages and body mass indexes and the absence of T2D at baseline.
The findings from these studies are having real-world implications. The Joslin Diabetes Center (JDC), a world-renowned authority and leader in diabetes research and treatment, revised its “Clinical Nutrition Guideline for Overweight and Obese Adults with Type 2 Diabetes or Prediabetes” to say saturated fat from dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt) is acceptable within total daily caloric intake. This is the sort of progress that helps build momentum for the scientific research. National Dairy Council collaborates with JDC to conduct further research on dairy’s role in diabetes management.
I also wrote about the link between dairy consumption and reduced risk of inflammation in the March issue of Dairy Foods. In short, inflammation is a precursor to many of the diseases, including cardiometabolic diseases. You can read the full article here.
The body of research is pointing to a link between dairy foods — milk, cheese and yogurt (at a variety of fat levels) — and reduced risk of cardiometabolic diseases. You can read more at NationalDairyCouncil.org.