Dairy products have been linked to increased risk of heart disease because of their saturated fat content but there is some evidence pointing in the opposite direction.
A group of Swedish scientists sought to investigate the relationship by analysing data covering 444 heart attack patients and 556 controls.
The scientists used blood levels of pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid as biomarkers to estimate how much dairy fat people ate.
This data was then compared to incidence of a first heart attack. The odds of a first heart attack were investigated using conditional logistic regression.
Milk fat biomarkers
Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers concluded from this investigation that the milk fat biomarkers were associated with a lower risk of suffering a first heart attack. This link was especially pronounced among women.
The researchers also looked at dietary data alongside the milk fat biomarkers. They said this analysis “partly confirmed” the conclusions reached from the biomarker data.
“In agreement with biomarker data, quartiles of reported intake of cheese (men and women) and fermented milk products (men) were inversely related to a first myocardial infarction (P for trend < 0.05 for all).”
Funding for the Swedish research was provided by National Dairy Council/Dairy Management Inc and various public bodies in Sweden.
The dairy industry is keen to publicise the health benefits of dairy products and defend dairy foods from nutritional criticism as governments across Europe look to take action on saturated fat levels in foods.
Last autumn the European Dairy Association (EDA) hosted a conference to push the case for a rethink of attitudes to saturated fat in dairy as the Danish government considered proposals for a saturated fat tax.
The EDA argues that not all saturated fats are the same and that some short chain fatty acids are known to actually reduce cholesterol. In addition, the trade association claims that dairy products contain essential nutrients that are important for health.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online May 19, 2010 doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.29054
Biomarkers of milk fat and the risk of myocardial infarction in men and women: a prospective, matched case-control study
Authors: E. Warensjö, J-H. Jansson, T. Cederholm, K. Boman, M. Eliasson, G. Hallmans, I. Johansson and P. Sjögren