Modified, low-fat dairy can improve cholesterol and lower heart disease risk

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

“Fatty acid modification of dairy products may have potential as a public health strategy aimed at CVD risk reduction.” Pic: Getty/wutwhanfoto
“Fatty acid modification of dairy products may have potential as a public health strategy aimed at CVD risk reduction.” Pic: Getty/wutwhanfoto

Related tags Cardiovascular disease cardiovascular health Blood pressure Dairy products Research

Dairy products that are low in saturated fats have shown to provide greater health benefits than conventional high-fat dairy diets. Modifying products through animal nutrition could be a viable future solution.

A new study​ published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this month analyzed the consumption of high-fat vs low-fat dairy diets in UK adults. General health guidelines stipulate that too much fat is bad for cardiovascular health, and the research confirmed this with a dairy lens.

After studying 54 adults and their consumption of different milk, butter and cheese products for 12 weeks, scientists concluded that their levels of bad cholesterol were improved when consuming the low-fat products.

They maintained their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, while those levels increased by 5.5% after consuming the conventional dairy. The modified dairy also improved blood vessel health.

Some of the modified dairy was achieved by supplementing dairy cow diets with plant oils or oil seeds. This enriched the end-product dairy with monounsaturated fatty acids.

The study said that further innovation in animal nutrition like this could be a viable reformulation strategy for the dairy industry to limit the entry of saturated fatty acids (SFA) into the food chain, without removing the beneficial aspects of dairy consumption.

“Our study findings indicate that a high-fat, high-dairy diet including conventional dairy foods led to an increase in cholesterol concentrations, which was attenuated by consumption of FA-modified dairy products,” ​the scientists said.

“Fatty acid modification of dairy products may have potential as a public health strategy aimed at ​[cardiovascular disease] risk reduction.”

The study was the first to use agricultural-based reformulation to investigate the impact of SFA-reduced, MUFA-enriched UHT milk, cheddar cheese, and butter on established and novel CVD risk outcomes. Arla Foods UK provided the control dairy products that had a typical fatty acid profile.

However, previous studies have purported to find that there is no link between consumption of any dairy and an increased CVD risk. In 2018 the European Society of Cardiology said that there has been no consistent evidence that consuming excess dairy leads to health problems.

They advised that global public health officials should revise the guidelines on dairy consumption to reflect consistent research and for better public education.

In 2019, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published research that found daily consumption of dairy products was found to lower blood pressure (BP), thanks to the accompanying high intake of calcium. In overweight adults particularly, a high dairy diet resulted in lower BP.

The researchers said, “The present study introduces dairy as a possible nourishment that may contribute to the reduction of BP. Dairy may therefore contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.”

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