Are dairy products really all that bad for cardiovascular health? One new study suggests otherwise. Scroll through our slideshow to find out more.
Dairy Fat: Fact or Myth. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, and eggs are widely believed to be generally bad for health because they contain high levels of saturated fats. So, many people, and probably many of your patients, opt for a low-fat or non-fat dietary options to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, is that totally true? Or just a plain ole' myth? And could dairy products actually be beneficial for cardiovascular health?
Scroll through the above slideshow to see which of the 10 statements about dairy products are facts or myths.
Myth or Fact? The French Paradox refers to the idea that French people can eat as much cheese as they want and still have low rates of mortality from CHD because of genes that protect them from CHD.
Answer: Myth. In 1992, Renaud and de Lorgeril proposed that this effect may be due to the daily moderate intake of wine in France, mainly through inhibiting platelet aggregation rather than decreasing the development of atherosclerosis.
Myth or Fact? Dairy products are the only food group with higher proportions of saturated fat than unsaturated fat.
Answer: Fact. Dairy products are the only food group with higher proportions of saturated fat than unsaturated fat. The saturated fat in dairy is composed of short-, medium-, and long-chain saturated fatty acids, but the impacts of these on CVD risk is still being researched.
Myth or Fact? Full-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat, which is why eating them increases CVD risk.
Answer: Myth. For decades, researchers thought that eating high levels of saturated fat contributed to the development of CVD, but recent evidence suggests that not all saturated fats have the same impact on CVD health.
Myth or Fact? The PURE study established that increased total fat consumption is associated with increased CVD deaths.
Answer: Myth. The PURE study found that high total fat, high saturated fat, and high carbohydrate intake were not associated with death from CVD. The results remain controversial and contradict decades of thinking about the role of saturated fats in CVD risk.
Answer: Myth. Recent research suggests that decreasing saturated fats in the diet, often leads to higher consumption of sugars, salts, carbohydrates, or proteins. Diets high in these factors may not necessarily decrease the risk of CVD, and may have negative health impacts.
Answer: Fact. Currently there is a controversy about whether different types of dairy foods have different impacts on cholesterol levels. For example, some studies suggest cheese may have less of an impact on LDL levels than butter. But even the role of butter in contributing to CVD risk is under debate.
Answer: Myth. Epidemiologic studies have suggested that dairy product consumption may be associated with neutral or even lower levels of inflammatory markers, though this remains to be proven in clinical trials and the mechanism remains unknown.
Answer: Fact. Fermentation may also result in structural changes in lipids and proteins in dairy products, which may also benefit CV health. However, teasing out the contributions of other factors, like a better overall dietary pattern among people who consume fermented dairy, remains a challenge.
Myth or Fact? Compared to cow's milk, goat's milk has more MUFAs, PUFAs, and medium-chain triglycerides.
Answer: Fact. Goat’s milk also has higher amounts of vitamins A, B1, B12 and higher contents of calcium and phosphorus than cow’s milk, with about the same total fat content (3.8% for goat’s milk vs 3.6% for cow’s milk).
Myth or Fact? When added to dairy products, phytosterols and phytostanols can help lower cholesterol.
Answer: Fact. Studies so far suggest that consuming these products may help lower cholesterol. However, long-term studies are needed to determine whether lowering cholesterol with foods that contain these additives actually translates into lower rates of CVD.
Sources: Slide 1: Renaud S, de Lorgeril M. Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease. Lancet. 1992;339:1523–1526. Slide 4: Dehghan M, Mente A, Zhang X, et al. Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): A prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2017;390:2050–2062.
All remaining slides: Lordan R, Tsoupras A, Mitra B, Zabetakis, I. Dairy Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: Do We Really Need to be Concerned? Foods. 2018;7:29.