Researchers followed up with participants about nine years later.
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On average, people consumed 179 grams of dairy each day, which is equivalent to a little less than a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt per day. The results also showed that people in Europe and North and South America generally consumed more dairy than people in Asia and Africa. Low-fat was the preferred dairy among people in North America and Europe while people in other regions ate more whole-fat varieties.
Researchers analyzed the results and found an association of a 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that increase the risk of heart disease. That lowered risk was tied to having a minimum of two servings of dairy per day as opposed to eating no dairy. No association was found for lowered risk of metabolic syndrome and consuming only low-fat dairy.
Consuming whole-fat dairy had a stronger association than low-fat dairy with lowering the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. But having at least two servings of any dairy product was linked to an 11–12% lower risk of having the aforementioned health conditions.
“Higher intake of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, especially whole-fat dairy rather than low-fat dairy, is associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and with a lower risk of developing hypertension and diabetes,” said study co-author Andrew Mente, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Population Health Research Institute, in Hamilton, Ontario.
The authors also hope to dispel the myth that reduced-fat foods are healthier than whole-fat foods.
“Dairy foods and dairy fat provide high-quality protein and a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B-12, and riboflavin,” Mente said.
Researchers hope to confirm their findings in larger, long-term trials.