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Dairy products: healthy or unhealthy?
Dairy products like cheese and milk have a bad reputation because of the saturated fat they contain. But a large new study suggests that they can, in moderation, actually protect against heart disease and stroke.
In their current study, McMaster University scientists found that dairy products such as cheese and milk can help protect against heart disease and stroke. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "The Lancet".
Milk can protect the heart
The study was mainly conducted in low and middle income countries, which generally consume less dairy products. Even so, the results can also be important for people in more affluent countries, where people often think that they should avoid consuming milk. A moderate amount of milk, three servings a day, can protect the heart instead of harming it, says study author Dr. Mahshid Dehghan from McMaster University in Canada.
What is in dairy products?
The results should motivate people with very low milk consumption to increase their consumption. The expert adds, especially in countries with low and middle incomes, but also in countries with very high incomes. Concern about dairy products stems from the awareness that saturated fat increases the LDL cholesterol level associated with heart disease. However, dairy products also contain nutrients that are healthy for humans, including certain amino acids, unsaturated fats, vitamins K1 and K2, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
The amount makes the difference
However, consuming more than moderate amounts of milk and dairy products is also not advisable, the authors say. Overfeeding is as much a problem as malnutrition. Foods with saturated fats are very high in calories, which can lead to obesity and serious complications. The experts do not want to encourage people to increase their consumption if they are already consuming six to seven servings a day. More moderate consumption is recommended. In this case, one serving is a 244g glass of milk or yoghurt, a 15g slice of cheese or a teaspoon of butter.
More than 135,000 subjects were examined
The study examined more than 135,000 people in 21 countries around the world, from Canada and Sweden to Brazil, Bangladesh and Tanzania. The weakness of the study is that it is based on food frequency questionnaires. The participants were asked to tell how often they had consumed different milk products. The subjects were then divided into categories with high, medium and low intake. The participants were medically monitored for a period of approximately nine years.
Butter has no protective effect
It was found that people who consumed three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt a day had lower rates of cardiovascular disease and lower mortality than those who consumed fewer such products. Butter was not considered protective, but most people ate so little butter that the effect was not significant.
What effect does saturated fat have on health?
Several scientists have already agreed that there is more and more evidence that dairy products are good for your health. It's important to have information about a healthy lifestyle and healthy food, not just individual nutrients that are consumed, the researchers say. The results support other evidence that there is no correlation between normal saturated fat consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Foods that provide fat can have a decisive impact. The results of this study suggest that saturated fat from whole milk, yogurt, and hard cheese has a very limited impact, if any, on cardiovascular risk, experts say.
Should better fat reduced milk products be consumed?
The key question of whether we should consume low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products is not fully answered by this research due to the low intake of low-fat dairy products in large parts of the world except Europe and North America, the doctors say. (as)