READING, United Kingdom — A new study finds milk isn’t just good for your bones, it’s also doing plenty for your heart too. An international team finds drinking milk regularly can significantly drop the chances of suffering from heart disease.
Their findings reveal milk drinkers also have lower levels of cholesterol, which can cause blockages in the arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Overall, those drinking milk each day slashed their risk of coronary heart disease by 14 percent.
Study authors based their conclusions on health information from almost two million people in the United States and United Kingdom. Those with a mutation enabling them to consume large quantities of milk were less prone to cardiovascular illnesses. Researchers note thatt previous studies have concluded that dairy products can be generally bad for your health. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting this idea is false.
“We found that among participants with a genetic variation that we associated with higher milk intake, they had higher BMI, body fat, but importantly had lower levels of good and bad cholesterol,” says lead author Professor Vimal Karani, a nutritionist at the University of Reading, in a release.
“We also found that those with the genetic variation had a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease. All of this suggests that reducing the intake of milk might not be necessary for preventing cardiovascular diseases.”
Milk drinkers have healthier hearts, even if they weigh more
The international team pooled data from the UK Biobank study, the 1958 British Birth Cohort, and the Health and Retirement study from the U.S. Researchers could not find a link between regular milk consumption and increased levels of cholesterol.
In fact, those who downed high amounts of milk had lower levels of the blood fats. That includes both the “bad” LDL type doctors blame for clogging arteries and the “good” HDL version that takes it away. However, study authors did find those drinking milk generally have a higher body mass index (BMI) in comparison to non-milk drinkers.
The researchers adopted a genetic technique by looking at a variation in the genes connected to digesting lactose, the sugars in milk and other dairy foods. They discovered carrying a variant where people can digest lactose is a good way for identifying those who consume higher levels of milk.
Obesity, diabetes, and other conditions that affect metabolism also have ties to over-indulging in dairy products. Despite this, the UK biobank data showed those with the lactase mutation were 11 percent less prone to type 2 diabetes. Prof. Karani adds there was no evidence higher milk intake increased the chances of diabetes or inflammation.
“The study certainly shows that milk consumption is not a significant issue for cardiovascular disease risk even though there was a small rise in BMI and body fat among milk drinkers,” Karani explains. “What we do note in the study is that it remains unclear whether it is the fat content in dairy products that is contributing to the lower cholesterol levels or it is due to an unknown ‘milk factor.’”
A boost for the body and the brain
Milk has a long history of helping to build healthy bones and provide the body with a vitamin and protein boost. Scientists also believe it can boost brain power. A previous study of almost 1,000 people discovered those who drank milk performed better in concentration and learning tests.
It’s believed certain nutrients in dairy products, such as magnesium, could help stave off memory loss. They may also help protect against heart disease and high blood pressure, which in turn maintains the brain’s ability to properly function. Better blood flow carries more oxygen to the brain.
On the other hand, some experts warn dairy products may trigger heart disease due to their high levels of saturated fat.
The latest findings appear in the International Journal of Obesity.
SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.