Building Evidence Links Dairy Foods to Heart Health

  • Article
  • March 7, 2016

Researchers have shown an association between dairy consumption and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) -- but are Americans enjoying enough dairy to potentially decrease that risk? A new meta-analysis addresses that question.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, but the good news is that some of the risk factors – such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and being overweight – are modifiable through diet, physical activity and lifestyle.

One meta-analysis used 31 studies (and over one million participants), to investigate the link between total dairy food consumption, the type of dairy food (milk, cheese or yogurt) eaten and CVD risk.

The findings from this study reinforce the idea that higher intakes of dairy foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt), including but not limited to low-fat and fat-free, may be associated with a decreased risk of CVD and stroke.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) acknowledge that healthy eating styles, which include three servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, are associated with a reduced risk of CVD and type 2 diabetes. In fact, the DGAs notes that current consumption of dairy foods for most Americans “are far below recommendations of the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern” with an average of 1.85 servings per day.

Additional studies, including one meta-analysis, have continually found that consumption of dairy food is associated with a decreased risk, or have neutral effects on CVD. This current meta-analysis supports this growing body of evidence. The mechanisms behind how dairy foods may impact CVD risk are still being elucidated.

In the meantime, the results from this analysis indicate that higher intakes of dairy foods are associated with a reduced risk of CVD. It’s important as a health and wellness professional to help educate your clients about the benefits of eating dairy foods and that adding a serving of milk at breakfast, yogurt at lunch, or cheese for a snack to help meet dairy recommendations. That sounds like a delicious way to support health!