Rx Nutrition Resource Center

Rx Nutrition Resource Center

Perspective from Joanna Mitri, MD, MS
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
June 01, 2020
4 min read

Consuming high-fat dairy tied to less metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension

Perspective from Joanna Mitri, MD, MS
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Higher intake of whole-fat — but not low-fat — dairy is associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome, as well as lower incidence of hypertension and diabetes, researchers reported.

Higher intake of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, especially from whole-fat dairy rather than low-fat dairy, is associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and with a lower risk for developing hypertension and diabetes,” Andrew Mente, PhD, associate professor, Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University, Ontario, told Healio. “Consumption of two to three servings of dairy, especially from whole-fat dairy foods, may represent a feasible and low-cost approach to reducing hypertension, diabetes, and ultimately cardiovascular disease events worldwide.”

Global analysis

In a cross-sectional study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, Mente and colleagues analyzed data from 112,922 participants in the PURE study, a prospective, epidemiological study of adults aged 35 to 70 years from 21 countries on five continents, with a median follow-up of 9.1 years. Participants completed country-specific validated food frequency questionnaires. Total dairy was defined as milk, yogurt, yogurt drink, cheese, and mixed dishes prepared with dairy; mixed dishes prepared with dairy were disaggregated into their constituents and a proportional weight was assigned to each component. Researchers grouped foods as whole-fat dairy and low-fat dairy. Follow-up occurred at least once every 3 years by telephone or in-person visits by local research teams; participants were asked if they had been diagnosed with hypertension of diabetes.

Andrew Mente
Andrew Mente

Researchers assessed the association of dairy intake with prevalent metabolic syndrome, defined as having at least three of five components: systolic BP of at least 130 mm Hg or diastolic BP of at least 85 mm Hg; waist circumference greater than 80 cm for women and at least 94 cm for men (except among Asians or South Americans); HDL cholesterol of 40 mg/dL or lower for men and 50 mg/dL or lower for women; triglyceride level of at least 150 mg/dL; and a fasting blood glucose of at least 100 mg/dL or use of diabetes drugs.

Within the cohort, mean total dairy intake was 179 g per day, with whole-fat dairy consumption almost twice as high as low-fat dairy consumption (mean, 124.6 g per day vs. 65 g per day). Researchers observed the highest intakes of total dairy in Europe, North America, the Middle East and South America; lowest intakes were observed in South Asia, China, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Among adults who reported two total dairy servings per day vs. no dairy consumption:
Higher intake of whole-fat — but not low-fat — dairy is associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome, as well as lower incidence of hypertension and diabetes.

Dairy findings

Researchers found that, compared with no dairy consumption, consuming at least two servings per day of total dairy was associated with a 24% reduced risk for developing metabolic syndrome (OR = 0.76; 95% CI, 0.71-0.8). In analyses stratified by type of dairy consumption, higher intake of whole-fat dairy consumed alone was associated with lower metabolic syndrome prevalence (OR = 0.72; 95% CI, 0.66-0.78), with increased risk observed when high-fat dairy was consumed jointly with low-fat dairy (OR = 0.89; 95% CI, 0.8-0.98).

Low-fat dairy consumed alone was not associated with metabolic syndrome prevalence, according to researchers.

In prospective analyses, researchers examined the association of dairy with incident hypertension among 57,547 participants without hypertension at baseline and incident diabetes among 131,481 participants without diabetes at baseline. During follow-up, 23.7% of participants developed incident hypertension and 4.1% of participants developed incident diabetes. Researchers found that consumption of at least two servings of total dairy per day was associated with a lower incidence of hypertension (HR = 0.89; 95% CI, 0.82-0.97) and lower incidence of diabetes (HR = 0.88; 95% CI, 0.76-1.02) compared with participants who reported consuming no dairy.

“A next step would be to study dairy, especially whole fat dairy and possibly fermented dairy like yogurt and cheese, in a randomized controlled trial to assess their impact on blood glucose and future risk of diabetes,” Mente said. “This would help to better assess whether the protective associations of dairy with health, as seen on observational studies, are causal.” – by Regina Schaffer

For more information:

Andrew Mente, PhD, can be reached at the Population Health Research Institute, 237 Barton Street East, Hamilton, ON L8L 2X2

Canada; email: andrew.mente@phri.ca.