Full fat dairy products could help to prevent the risk of stroke and heart disease, according to new US research.
The findings add further weight to the growing evidence base that eating healthy fats has numerous benefits, with healthy saturated fats a key component of this health boost.
The results also contradict out-of-date research purporting that saturated fat is a key cause of heart disease risk. More and more modern research is disproving this link, and this is important for people with diabetes who can benefit from better sugar levels by choosing natural fats over carbohydrate.
Scientists studied the effects of dairy food on cardiovascular health in more than 2,900 US seniors aged 65 and above over a 22-year period. The blood plasma levels of three fatty acids contained in dairy products were among the health markers measured.
Not only were these fatty acids not associated with total mortality risk, but the acids correlated with a lower risk of death from heart disease. Specifically, those who had higher levels of these fatty acids were 42% less likely to die from stroke.
First author Marcia Otto, University of Texas Health Science Center at Housto, said: “Dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase the risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults. In addition […], the results suggest that one fatty acid present in dairy may lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke.”
For years, people with and without diabetes have been encouraged to eat low fat foods, including low fat dairy, to improve their health. But full fat is showing to help improve cholesterol and reduce type 2 diabetes risk, among other benefits. Still though, it is unfortunate that official UK dietary recommendations state people with diabetes should limit their total and saturated fat intake.
Healthy sources of saturated fat being associated with improved heart health markers is significant, and the researchers hope the findings can inspire a change in thinking.
“It’s […] important to have robust studies, so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay,” said Otto. “Consumers have been exposed to so much different and conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats,” adding that a “a growing body of evidence” suggests that full fat dairy is good for people.
The results appear online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Editor’s note Our award-winning Low Carb Program has helped thousands of people to adopt a sustainable real-food diet and enjoy benefits such as weight loss, normalised blood sugar and decreased medication dependency. The program also provides advice on the benefits of full fat and why its demonisation over recent years has been misinformed.

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