130919 Dairy and heart disease: a lower risk than previously thought

130919 Dairy & heart disease: a lower risk than previously thought

By Glennn Cardwell

Pouring milk in the glass on the white background

It has been clear for a long time that not all saturated fats act the same. Saturated fats come in a range of lengths, dictated by the number of carbon atoms in the fatty acid chain. Look, it’s a chemistry thing, and 93% of people never did chemistry at school, let alone university. You can go to everyone’s friend Wikipedia if you want a quick refresher on saturated fat. Better still, just keep reading the next paragraph.

Let me just say, there is mounting evidence that dairy foods aren’t the evil forerunner to a life of wheezing or chest pain or drop dead heart attacks. In sensible amounts, milk, cheese and yogurt are a pretty good source of calcium, riboflavin and protein. The authors of one review paper regarding dairy and the risk of heart disease say they “could find no consistent evidence that dairy food consumption is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.” There are many reasons why no clear link was seen in the studies:

  1. Great variation in the study designs
  2. Insufficient consideration of other lifestyle factors associated with heart disease
  3. More low-fat dairy foods became available over the last 40 years making it difficult to compare a study from the 1970s to one in the 2000s
  4. Often there was no distinction between high-fat and low-fat dairy products

Welcome to the world in which I live, where nutrition is not as simple as we would like, and our advice will vary from person to person. Look, I drink skim milk and eat good cheese. A contradiction? A bet each way? Or is it fine because I eat loads of fruit, vegetables, legumes, mushrooms and wholegrains? Whatever, I’m happy.

A2 milk

More recently there has been debate about the type of protein in milk and its influence on health. Milk with A1 beta-casein protein may cause more gut pain and looser stools than milk that exclusively contains A2 beta-casein. In fact, if someone has a milk intolerance then lactose may not be culprit, but A2 casein.

There is now a recent review that anyone can download. It is still early days in research terms, although the authors believe they have a compelling case for all dairy cattle to be the type that produce only A2 milk.

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