A new study suggests that dairy products do not cause in increase in the risk of heart attack despite the relatively high amount of saturated fat in foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter.
Researchers from Brown University analyzed data from 3,630 Costa Rican men and women and found that their dairy consumption had no statistical relevance to their risk of heart attack.
The two Brown University researchers, Stella Aslibekyan and Ana Baylin, used data from an epidemiological study conducted between 1994 and 2004 by study co-author Hannia Campos of the Harvard School of Public Health.
Aslibekyan and Baylin broke the study’s men and women into quintiles according to their dairy consumption and discovered that there was no significant linear relationship between dairy consumption and heart risks. At the high end of the spectrum, dairy consumption averaged 593 grams per day.
When they broke the study participants up into two groups, those who had survived a heart attack and those who never had a heart attack, the researchers found that the dairy intake among the heart attack survivors was not statistically different from those who never had a heart attack.
To further refine the results, the researchers screened for risk factors such as smoking, waist-to-hip ratio, alcohol intake, and physical activity. Again, the study demonstrated no significant association between dairy consumption and heart attack risk.
Aslibekyan and Baylin hypothesized that other nutrients in dairy products may help protect against heart attacks. On the flip side, they said were not ready to declare saturated fats to be safe.
“Things like milk and cheese are very complex substances,” said Aslibekyan. “We looked at [heart attack risk and] dairy products in their entirety and then looked at separate components of those dairy products, including fats, and it turns out that the results are null. Perhaps the evidence is not there.”
The study was published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.