While dairy foods are a major source of saturated fat in the diet, which has been associated with heart disease, there's some evidence that dairy foods could actually benefit heart health by lowering blood pressure or reducing cholesterol levels.
To investigate, researchers measured blood levels of two biomarkers of milk fat in over 400 heart attack patients and 500 healthy controls. The substances, pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid, indicate how much dairy fat a person has been eating.
The researchers found that people with the highest levels of milk fat biomarkers, suggesting they consumed the most dairy fat, were actually at lower risk of heart attack; for women, the risk was reduced by 26 percent, while for men risk was 9 percent lower.
Researchers suspect dairy's nutrient profile may have something to do with the protective effect seen in the study. Dairy products are rich in calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
The study was funded in part by the National Dairy Council/Dairy Management Inc., a trade group for the US dairy industry and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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