Can dairy fat harm your blood pressure and metabolic health?

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Scientists from the University of Washington and elsewhere found that dairy fat does not increase or decrease heart disease risk factors.

Dairy products or milk products, also known as lacticinia, are food products made from milk. The most common dairy animals are a cow, water buffalo, nanny goat, and ewe.

Dairy products include common grocery store food items in the Western world such as yogurt, cheese, and butter.

The type of fat found in dairy is saturated and, because people eat dairy foods regularly, this can add up. On average, dairy products make up about a quarter of the saturated fat they eat.

Traditional dietary guidelines recommend low-fat dairy because dairy’s high saturated fat content is thought to increase the risk of heart disease.

However, recent evidence shows that dairy fat may not negatively impact heart disease risk when consumed in foods with a complex matrix.

In this study, the team aimed to compare the effects of diets limited in dairy or rich in either low-fat or full-fat dairy on heart disease risk.

They tested 72 participants with metabolic syndrome. In the first four weeks, these people limited their dairy intake to ≤3 servings/week of nonfat milk.

They were assigned to 1 of 3 diets, either continuing the limited-dairy diet or switching to a diet containing 3.3 servings/day of either low-fat or full-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese for 12 weeks.

The researchers examined the changes in the participants’ fasting lipid profile and blood pressure.

A lipid profile is a blood test that can measure the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood.

Fasting lipid profile means nothing to eat or drink (except water) after midnight the night before the cholesterol test.

The team found there was no diet effect on blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels between different dairy groups.

There was also no diet effect on diastolic blood pressure.

But there is a strong diet effect on systolic blood pressure, with a trend for a decrease in the low-fat dairy diet compared with the limited-dairy diet. Further analysis showed that this effect was significant.

Based on the findings, the team concluded that in men and women with metabolic syndrome, a diet rich in full-fat dairy had no effects on cholesterol or blood pressure compared with diets limited in dairy or rich in low-fat dairy.

Therefore, dairy fat, when consumed as part of complex whole foods, does not change heart disease risks in people with metabolic syndrome.

Future work needs to test whether dairy fat affects heart health in other groups, such as healthy people.

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

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