How Dairy Foods Are Linked to Heart Health

  • Article
  • February 25, 2015

During February, American Heart Month, many like to raise awareness around heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.

Every day health and wellness professionals encounter people who either have heart disease or are at high risk and are looking for solutions.

As government initiatives like Million Hearts seek to empower Americans to make heart-healthy choices, I thought I would take this opportunity to raise awareness of the important role dairy foods play in a heart-healthy eating plan and the science behind it.

I hope that by reading this aggregated content you will have a better sense of where the science stands and be better equipped to help your clients/patients choose foods that help them stay healthy.

Dairy Foods and Cardiovascular Health

Since the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), observational and clinical research has been published that indicates higher consumption of dairy foods (including milk, cheese and yogurt) is associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease and stroke in a variety of populations. In fact, the 2013 FAO report that concludes, “low-fat milk and total dairy product consumption is generally not associated with CVD risk, and may actually contribute to a reduction of CVD.”

Milkfat and Cardiovascular Health

In addition, emerging research recognizes that milkfat is unique and the effect of milkfat-containing foods on cardiovascular health may be different than that of other sources of fats. At the same time, a growing body of science is changing our perceptions about saturated fat and its role in CVD risk. Navigate the buzz about saturated fat using this blog post to provide a strategy for evaluating emerging science to help you translate what it means to your clients.

Dairy Foods and the Link to Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Evidence that eating dairy foods are linked to reduced risk factors of metabolic syndrome (MetS), is also building – and MetS increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes and CVD. In fact, findings of one study suggest that encouraging people to eat three servings of milk, cheese and yogurt may be an important first step in helping those with metabolic syndrome. Most recently, an observational study conducted among 233 healthy French Canadians found that eating full fat-dairy foods was not associated with metabolic risk factors, including high blood sugar, high blood pressure and inflammation. In addition, total dairy food consumption, including both full-fat and low-fat, was associated with lower blood sugar and blood pressure.

So when choosing a meal plan to promote health for your clients/patients, remember that dairy foods can play an important role in helping to maintain overall health, including heart health.