A dash of milk could make all the difference to a healthy heart as new research from the University of South Australia finds that people who regularly consume milk have a lower risk of heart disease. This is a world-first study used a genetic-approach to investigate causal relationships between milk consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Assessing genetic biomarkers among 400,000+ people, the study found that greater milk consumption was associated with lower blood cholesterol, lower blood lipid levels, and a lower risk of heart disease. This supports the role of milk as a healthy part of a balanced diet.
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. Most cardiovascular disease risks are preventable through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
People have long had a love-hate relationship with milk, which is not surprising given the mixed messages about dairy. While some reports show that high dairy and milk consumption is linked with cardio-metabolic risk factors, evidence from randomized controlled trials have been inconsistent.
Drinking milk can help maintain a healthy heart. It is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including “nutrients of concern,” which are under-consumed by many populations. It provides potassium, B12, calcium and vitamin D, which are lacking in many diets. Milk is also a good source of vitamin A, magnesium, zinc and thiamine (B1). Additionally, it’s an excellent source of protein and contains hundreds of different fatty acids, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3s.
In this study, we conducted robust genetic tests to assess whether milk was associated with an increase in heart disease, and while we confirm that milk can cause an increase in body fat, we also show that it leads to lower cholesterol concentration and lower cardiovascular disease risk.
The risk reduction could be explained by milk calcium, which has shown to increase the enzymes that break down fats within the body and thereby lower cholesterol levels.
What this shows is that milk can be a part of a healthy balanced diet; there is no need to limit milk consumption if you’re looking to improve your heart health.