Recent Studies Investigate The Health Benefits Of Eating Dairy Products

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
Dairy products have long been known to benefit bone health, but a series of recent studies suggest they could also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and other metabolic conditions.
In one study, presented this week at the Milk and Dairy Products in Human Health session of the 2014 Euro Fed Lipid Congress in Montpellier, France and published earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of nine different studies and found a link between increased consumption of milk and a reduced incidence of hypertension.
Specifically, Dr. Sabita S. Soedamah-Muthu of Wageningen University in the Netherlands reviewed research involving more than 57,000 people, over 15,000 of whom had been diagnosed with hypertension, and found that as total dairy, low-fat dairy and milk consumption increased, the risk of high blood pressure decreased, though no statistically significantly link was found with coronary heart disease, stroke and total mortality in this study.
In a related study, appearing in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition , Professor Mark Wahlqvist of the Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, and his colleagues conducted a study of 4,000 Taiwanese people. They found that increased consumption of dairy products could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke – even in communities where those foods are not typically part of the diet.
“In a dominantly Chinese food culture, unaccustomed to dairy foods, consuming them up to seven times a week does not increase mortality and may have favorable effects on stroke,” he explained. “We observed that increased dairy consumption meant lower risks of mortality from cardiovascular disease, especially stroke, but found no significant association with the risk of cancer.”
While milk and other dairy foods have been demonstrated to provide several nutrients that are important for our overall health and wellbeing, Wahlqvist said that people only need to consume small amounts to gain the benefits. For the best results, he and his colleagues suggest consuming about five servings equal to about eight grams of protein (one cup of milk or 45 grams of cheese) spread out over the course of a week.
“A little is beneficial and a lot is unnecessary,” Professor Wahlqvist said. “Those who ate no dairy had higher blood pressure, higher body mass index and greater body fatness… than other groups. But Taiwanese who included dairy food in their diet only three to seven times a week were more likely to survive than those who ate none.”
Dairy products could also help combat type 2 diabetes, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) claiming that people consuming eight or more portions of high-fat dairy products each day were less likely of contracting the disease than those having one or fewer servings.
That study, which was written by Dr. Ulrika Ericson of the Lund University Diabetes Center in Sweden and her colleagues, looked at nearly 27,000 individuals between the ages of 45 and 74, and found that higher intake of high-fat dairy foods was linked with a 23 percent lower incident rate of type 2 diabetes (T2D). In contrast, Dr. Ericson’s team found no association between low-fat dairy product intake and the risk of developing diabetes.
“Our observations may contribute to clarifying previous findings regarding dietary fats and their food sources in relation to T2D. The decreased risk at high intakes of high- fat dairy products, but not of low-fat dairy products, indicate that dairy fat, at least partly, explains observed protective associations between dairy intake and T2D,” she said. “Our findings suggest… fats specific to dairy products may have a role in prevention of type 2 diabetes.”
Likewise, researchers from CHU de Québec Research Center’s Endocrinology and Nephrology Department and Laval University reported in the September 16 online edition of the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism that dairy consumption could reduce a person’s risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic diseases such as obesity.
The study authors recruited 233 participants with healthy metabolic profiles from the greater Quebec City metropolitan area, and found that the average individual consumed approximately 2.5 servings of dairy per day (plus or minus 1.4 portions). The goal of the study was to determine a link between dairy intake and specific metabolic risk factors, including plasma glucose, plasma lipid profile, inflammatory markers and blood pressure.
The data suggested that trans-palmitoleic acid found in plasma could be used as a biomarker to evaluate dairy consumption. Trans-palmitoleic acid is naturally present in milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and meat fat but cannot be synthesized by the body, and the fatty acid has recently been shown to be beneficial to a person’s health.
In the study, the authors found that trans-palmitoleic acid level was related to lower blood pressure in men and women, and to lower body weight in men. Daily intake was also associated with reduced blood glucose levels and blood pressure in the population studies, though the cross-sectional design made it impossible to draw causal relationships, and the study demonstrates that higher dairy intakes are not associated with adverse health effects.