01 Jun Study Supports Role of Milk As Part of Heart Healthy Diet
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Professor Elina Hypponen
Professor in Nutritional and Genetic Epidemiology
Director: Australian Centre for Precision Health
University of South Australia
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Diet is an important determinant of cardiovascular disease, and several studies have shown an association between high dairy and milk consumption with cardio-metabolic risk factors.
Especially high fat dairy products can increase the risk of high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease by increasing the intakes of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.
However, milk is also a rich source of calcium and other nutrients, and evidence from randomized controlled trials has been inconsistent with respect to the role milk may have in cardiovascular health
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We used a genetic approach and investigated the differences in cardiometabolic risk factors and cardiovascular disease between people who due to their genetics were either able to drink milk vs. those are unable to digest lactose (milk sugar) and therefore are less likely to drink milk.
We found that genetically indexed greater milk intake was associated with higher body fat, but also with lower blood cholesterol and blood lipid levels, as well as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: These results support the role of milk as part of a balanced heart healthy diet. We believe that the lower lipid and cholesterol levels in milk drinkers may be explained by milk calcium. Among other actions, calcium helps to increase the activity of lipases, which are enzymes that help break down fats within our body. Dairy calcium has also been shown to reduce fat absorption from food, although calcium supplements do not appear to have a similar effect.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Typically studies on milk consumption have only compared low fat milk with high fat milk, while the importance of other components of milk is less explored. Our study suggests that milk can be a part of a heart healthy diet, but large-scale intervention studies would be required before changes in dairy consumption could be recommended for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Vimaleswaran, K.S., Zhou, A., Cavadino, A. et al. Evidence for a causal association between milk intake and cardiometabolic disease outcomes using a two-sample Mendelian Randomization analysis in up to 1,904,220 individuals. Int J Obes (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-021-00841-2
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