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Dairy Products, Hypertension, Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome

For several years I've noticed that in a number of studies there appear to be beneficial health effects from consumption of dairy products, especially whole milk or full-fat products, and also fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese). A recent international study (21 countries on 5 continents) found similar results: higher intake of dairy foods, especially full-fat dairy, is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Risk factors include increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and elevated blood glucose.  Diet plays a role in whether one develops metabolic syndrome and diabetes. [Being overweight and being inactive are also important risk factors.]

What was the higher intake of dairy products that was associated with health benefits? At least 2 servings per day. The study did not look into what kind of dairy people drank and ate - whether cow, sheep, camel, or goat milk dairy. The assumption is: dairy is dairy!

While it was an observational study, it was significant, especially because the 131,481 participants (aged 35 to 70 years) were from world regions not typically studied in dairy consumption studies. They were tracked for about 9 years.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Dairy-rich diet linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure

Eating at least two daily servings of dairy is linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as the cluster of factors that heighten cardiovascular disease risk (metabolic syndrome), finds a large international study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 

The observed associations were strongest for full fat dairy products, the findings indicated.

Previously published research has suggested that higher dairy intake is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. But these studies have tended to focus on North America and Europe to the exclusion of other regions of the world.

To see whether these associations might also be found in a broader range of countries, the researchers drew on people taking part in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. Participants were all aged between 35 and 70 and came from 21 countries: Argentina; Bangladesh; Brazil; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; India; Iran; Malaysia; Palestine; Pakistan; Philippines, Poland; South Africa; Saudi Arabia; Sweden; Tanzania; Turkey; United Arab Emirates; and Zimbabwe.

Average daily total dairy consumption was 179 g, with full fat accounting for around double the amount of low fat: 124.5+ vs 65g.

Total dairy and full fat dairy, but not low fat dairy, were associated with a lower prevalence of most components of metabolic syndrome, with the size of the association greatest in those countries with normally low dairy intakes. At least 2 servings a day of total dairy were associated with a 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, rising to 28% for full fat dairy alone, compared with no daily dairy intake.

At least 2 servings a day of total dairy was associated with an 11-12% lower risk of both conditions, rising to a 13-14% lower risk for 3 daily servings. The associations were stronger for full fat than they were for low fat dairy.

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