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Whole fat dairy could reduce risk of metabolic syndrome

High intake of dairy products shown to reduce risk of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and diabetes in a recent, large research trial.

Metabolic syndrome is a serious condition affecting approximately one-third of adults in the United States. It is a collection of conditions presenting together that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The five conditions that lead to metabolic syndrome include; high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, abnormal cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. The presence of all five abnormalities greatly increases the chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Presenting with three or more of the five abnormalities leads to a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. Causes include being physically inactive, overweight, getting older, and genetic factors. Eating a healthy diet, increasing exercise, and weight reduction significantly reduces the risks of metabolic syndrome.

Several previous research studies have associated a high dairy intake with lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes but have mainly been focused in North America and Europe. To further investigate this link, researchers decided to use data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study in a large multinational cohort study.

Published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care Journal, the study gathered data from 147, 812 individuals across twenty-one different countries. Participants aged between 35 and 70 recorded their dietary intake using country-specific food frequency questionnaires. Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, yogurt drinks, and dishes containing these items) were classed as either low or full fat. Due to not being commonly eaten in some countries, butter and cream were addressed separately. Additional data analysed included; medical history, medication, weight, height, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, waist measurements, and smoking status. Nearly 113, 000 participants supplied data on all five components of metabolic syndrome. Researchers assessed this data to understand the link between dairy intake and the presence of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes.

Results from the study show that a higher intake of full-fat dairy products (two or more servings a day) was associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome, and a lower incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure. When compared with no dairy intake, at least two servings of full-fat dairy products a day lowered the risk of metabolic syndrome by 28%. The risk of high blood pressure and diabetes was lowered by 11-12% when consuming at least two servings of all types of dairy products. This increased to a 13-14% lower risk for three daily servings of all dairy products and the association was seen to be stronger with full-fat dairy products.

This is one of the first, large, multinational studies of its kind however, it is an observational therefore the cause cannot be determined. It must also be considered that diet was self-reported and the higher dairy intake could be influenced by the overall diet. Further large, long-term studies are needed to confirm the results of this study. If, however, the results are confirmed, then increasing dairy consumption could be a low-cost way helping to reduce metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Written by Helen Massy, BSc



Bhavadharini, B., Dehghan, M., Mente, A., Rangarajan, S., Sheridan, P., Mohan, V., Iqbal, R., Gupta, R., Lear, S., Wentzel-Viljoen, E., Avezum, A., Lopez-Jaramillo, P., Mony, P., Varma, R., Kumar, R., Chifamba, J., Alhabib, K., Mohammadifard, N., Oguz, A., Lanas, F., Rozanska, D., Bengtsson Bostrom, K., Yusoff, K., Tsolkile, L., Dans, A., Yusufali, A., Orlandini, A., Poirier, P., Khatib, R., Hu, B., Wei, L., Yin, L., Deeraili, A., Yeates, K., Yusuf, R., Ismail, N., Mozaffarian, D., Teo, K., Anand, S. and Yusuf, S., 2020. Association of dairy consumption with metabolic syndrome, hypertension and diabetes in 147 812 individuals from 21 countries. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 8(1), p.e000826.

EurekAlert!. 2020. Dairy-Rich Diet Linked To Lower Risks Of Diabetes And High Blood Pressure. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 May 2020].

Saklayen, M., 2018. The Global Epidemic of the Metabolic Syndrome. Current Hypertension Reports, 20(2). 2020. About Metabolic Syndrome. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 May 2020].

Image by Imo Flow from Pixabay 



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