Science

Dairy-rich diet ‘linked to lower risk of diabetes and high blood pressure'

Observed associations were strongest for full fat dairy products, researchers said.

Two servings of dairy a day could lower the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and other medical conditions associated with heart disease risk, researchers have suggested.

Scientists have found full fat dairy products to have a greater impact in reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS) – the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity – compared to low fat counterparts.

Around one in three adults in the UK aged 50 or older is affected by MetS, which is associated with greater risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and other conditions involving blood vessels.

Cheese
Consuming dairy products such as cheese and milk could help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, scientists say (Tim Ireland/PA)

A team of researchers led by McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, looked at data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study involving more than 140,000 people from 21 countries who were followed for an average of nine years.

Participants, all aged between 35 and 70, also provided information on medical history, which included use of prescription medicines, smoking and measurements of weight, height, waist circumference, blood pressure and fasting blood glucose.

Questionnaires were used to assess dietary intake over a period of 12 months.

Dairy products, which were either classed as low fat or full fat, included milk, cheese, yogurt and yogurt drinks, as well as food made using a diary ingredient.

Butter and cream were assessed separately as these are not commonly eaten in some of the countries involved, the researchers said.

The standard serving size for a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt was 244g, one slice of cheese was 15g and a teaspoon of butter was 5g.

Writing in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, the researchers noted: “Higher intake of whole fat (but not low fat) dairy was associated with a lower prevalence of MetS and most of its component factors, and with a lower incidence of hypertension and diabetes.”

Compared with no daily dairy intake, two daily dairy servings was associated with a 24% lower risk of MetS.

The risk was found to be even lower (28%) when only full fat diary was consumed, the researchers said.

But eating only low fat dairy was not found to be associated with a lower prevalence of MetS.

The researchers point out their study is observational and needs to be evaluated in large randomised trials.

The researchers wrote: “If our findings are confirmed in sufficiently large and long term trials, then increasing dairy consumption may represent a feasible and low cost approach to reducing (metabolic syndrome), hypertension, diabetes, and ultimately cardiovascular disease events worldwide.”

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