Are you someone who loves to devour some double cream brie cheese, yearns for yoghurt, or eats butter by the bucketload? Chances are you’ve been told you’re on a one-way trip to a heart attack. It’s common opinion that foods high in fat will eventually lead to clogged arteries, or various other cardiovascular diseases, and, while that may be true for foods high in saturated fats – although there is some evidence to suggest this could be more myth than fact – it’s a whole other ballgame for foods with high levels of dairy fat.
In fact, foods high in dairy fat could actually be good for you (or not as bad as you thought). At least, that’s according to a recent study published in the PLOS Medicine journal. Wanting to find out the correlation between dairy fat and cardiovascular disease, a team of researchers studied a sample of 4,150 participants in Sweden, with a median age of 60.5-years old. The research team specifically chose Sweden, because it’s a country that has a high production output of dairy products, along with a high consumption rate.
The study honed in on a particular fatty acid – 15.0 – and how much of it was present in the blood of the participants. The study ran for an average of 16 years, and wanted to see how many suffered from heart attacks, strokes, or worse, died. While 578 participants suffered from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 676 died, the researchers accounted for contributing factors that can lead to CVD – such as age and other dietary habits – the study ultimately found “higher 15:0” – higher levels of the fatty acid consumed via dairy products – “was associated with lower incident CVD risk”
In short: the idea that fatty dairy products can lead to heart attacks, could be a myth.
But, don’t just go and assume the Swedes are a lucky bunch, as the researchers combined their findings with those from 17 other studies looking into similar effects – with participants coming from countries including the USA, UK and Denmark, according to CNN – which confirmed similar results. CNN adds that lead researcher Kathy Trieu made a statement on the findings, saying “Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for heart health.”
“It is important to remember that although dairy foods can be rich in saturated fat, they are also rich in many other nutrients and can be a part of a healthy diet.”
She further admitted that while these findings suggest dairy fats aren’t necessarily so bad for us after all, they do still pale in comparison to ‘healthy’ fats found in other foods: “However, other fats like those found in seafood, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils can have greater health benefits than dairy fats.”
The research team added their study presented “increasing evidence that the health impact of dairy foods is more dependent on the type (e.g., cheese, yoghurt, milk, and butter) rather than the fat content, which has raised doubts if avoidance of dairy fats is beneficial for cardiovascular health.”