A diet rich in cheese and yoghurt may not increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to new research that challenges the widely held belief that dairy products can damage health. Scientists at the University of Reading in the UK conducted the largest analysis of population cohort studies, representing almost a million participants and over 93,000 deaths, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology . The meta-analysis of 29 prospective cohort studies found that overall, diets high in dairy products, did not lead to any increased occurrence of cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke) or death. “This latest analysis provides further evidence that a diet that is high in dairy foods is not necessarily damaging to health,” said Jing Guo, a nutrition scientist at the University of Reading.
“The number of participants in particular gives us a really clear global picture of the neutral association of dairy on heart disease risk,” said Guo. It also provides “some indications about the potentially beneficial effect of fermented dairy on heart health, although further studies are needed to confirm this,” said Guo. The research supports previous findings that dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurts, can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. “We will now be investigating the possible ways that dairy foods may impact health,” said Professor Julie Lovegrove, Head of the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, University of Reading.