Are butter, cheese and whole milk really good for you?

Glass of milk, a cup of yogurt and a pad of butter could lower your risk of heart disease

News reports have suggested that whole milk and full-fat dairy products could be good for you, but are they really healthier than low-fat versions?

When examining only whole-fat dairy, higher intake was associated with lower rates of total mortality compared with 0.5 serving of 3.3 vs. 4.4 percent and major cardiovascular disease of 3.7 percent vs. 5.0 percent.

Researchers surveyed more than 130,000 people in 21 countries over about nine years.

People whose only dairy intake was whole-fat products still had significantly lower risk with higher intake of both the composite endpoint (HR 0.71 for more than two versus less than half a serving a day, 95% CI 0.60-0.83) and total mortality and major cardiovascular disease separately (HRs 0.75 and 0.68).

"However, as the authors themselves concluded, the results only suggest the 'consumption of dairy products should not be discouraged and perhaps even be encouraged in low-income and middle-income countries'".

Historically, past studies have suggested higher dairy consumption is associated with a 10% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, she said, but the majority of data stem from North American and European studies.

They say that the findings are not "the ultimate seal of approval for recommending whole-fat dairy over its low-fat or skimmed counterparts".

"We are not saying people eating seven servings of dairy a day should increase their intake, but that three servings - moderation - is good for you".

Those in the high-intake group had lower total mortality rates compared to the no-intake group (3.4% vs 5.6%). Nor does it show that full-fat dairy is better than low-fat dairy.

According to scientists, the most useful turned out to be low-fat dairy products (2.9 portions), which reduced the likelihood of premature death 1.1%.

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"It also adds weight to the evidence that saturated fats from dairy [probably apart from butter] are not associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, unlike some other sources".

The PURE study has been controversial for a wide range of findings contravening conventional dietary advice, from salt to vegetable intake.

The findings are consistent with previous meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials, but stand in contrast to current dietary guidelines which recommend consuming 2-4 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy per day, and minimising consumption of whole-fat dairy products for cardiovascular disease prevention.

Experts behind the latest study said dairy should not be discouraged and perhaps be encouraged in countries where dairy consumption is low.

For the study, one standard serving of dairy was equivalent to a glass of milk, a cup of yoghurt, one 15 gram slice of cheese, or a teaspoon of butter (5g).

"Diet is one of the most important modifiable risk factors of chronic disease", lead author Dr Mahshid Dehghan, a senior research associate at McMaster University, said.

"Focusing on low-corpulent is predominantly in accordance to the conclusion that saturated corpulent will enhance LDL ldl cholesterol", she says. "The other point is that dairy has many other beneficial components-calcium, magnesium, amino acids, vitamin K-and the net effect of dairy should be considered, not just the saturated fat content". "Therefore, when you're focusing on low-fat dairy, we're scaring people about the harms".

"Dairy products don't need to be excluded from the diet to prevent heart and circulatory diseases and are already part of the eatwell guide, which is the basis for our healthy eating recommendations in the UK. Similarly, people shouldn't take the results too excess and eat as much dairy as they like".

A new research challenges the widely held belief that those who consume less full fat are at higher risk of heart disease.

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