Human Locomotion

Trieu K, et al. Biomarkers of dairy fat intake, incident cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality: A cohort study, systematic review, and meta-analysis. 2021. PLoS Med 18(9).

Monthly Research Articles

Why was this study done?

  • Many dietary guidelines recommend limiting dairy fat consumption in order to lower saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
  • However, increasing evidence suggests that the health impact of dairy foods is more dependent on the type (e.g., cheese, yoghurt, milk, and butter) rather than the fat content, which has raised doubts if avoidance of dairy fats is beneficial for cardiovascular health.

What did the researchers do and find?

  • We measured dairy fat consumption using an objective biomarker, serum pentadecanoic acid, in 4,150 Swedish 60-year-olds and collected information about CVD events and deaths during a median follow-up of 16.6 years.
  • When we accounted for known risk factors including demographics, lifestyle, and disease prevalence, the CVD risk was lowest for those with high levels of the dairy fat biomarker 15:0, while those with biomarker levels around the median had the lowest risk of all-cause mortality.
  • We also conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, and the combined evidence from 18 studies also showed higher levels of 2 dairy fat biomarkers were linked with lower risk of CVD, but not with all-cause mortality.

What do these findings mean?

  • The findings from our study using fatty acid biomarkers suggest that higher intake of dairy fat is associated with lower CVD risk in diverse populations including Sweden (a country with high dairy intake), though more trials are needed to understand if and how dairy foods protect cardiovascular health.