heart-healthy diet

New research has suggested that a diet rich in dairy fat may lower the risk of heart disease. Interestingly, this advice to choose full-fat dairy options contrasts with government guidance for many decades.

Swedish researchers studied the dairy fat intake of over 4,000 60-year-olds by measuring the blood concentration of fatty acids that are found in dairy sources such as cheese, yoghurt, and milk. The participants were followed on average for 16.6 years, recording cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

Cardiovascular disease risk was found lowest in participants who had high levels of the fatty acids associated with dairy sources. The lead author of the study, Dr Kathy Trieu based at the George Institute for Global Health, highlighted how this link between fat intakes and heart health was more complex than had previously been thought.

“There’s increasing evidence to show that the type of dietary fat, or the source of dietary fat, is actually more important than the amount of fat,” she said. “When we’re selecting dairy foods to buy, it’s less important to select the low-fat option.

The research was published in the journal Plos Medicine and also concluded we should be avoiding products with added sugar or sodium.

Adopting a heart-healthy diet

As well as protecting you against coronary disease, adopting a heart-healthy diet can keep you active, reduce cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of many cancers. It’s all about balance when it comes to diet so you should incorporate different food groups:

  • Fruit and vegetables and plenty of them
  • Good carbs such as wholegrain pasta, rice, and bread
  • Some milk and dairy products
  • Protein in the form of meat, fish, and eggs, but also look to beans and other sources

This is not the first data supporting a diet rich in dairy sources, but the study was observational and although the researchers do believe the biomarkers are a good indicator of dairy fat levels, there’s a chance that the data reflected something else. The biomarkers cannot distinguish the sources of dairy fat.

For more advice on maintaining heart health, get in touch to arrange a consultation with cardiovascular expert Dr Konrad Grosser.