A new study suggests that cheese and yogurt can protect against death.
For a long time, we have been told that dairy should be eaten sparingly, but new research states that the current advice should be reconsidered. The consumption of dairy has been thought to increase the risk of death because of its relatively high levels of saturated fat; however, evidence for any such link is inconsistent. Dairy products, with the exception of milk, have actually been found to protect against mortality. Therefore, current nutritional guidelines to limit consumption of dairy, especially cheese and yogurt, should be relaxed, but drinking non-fat or low-fat milk should still be recommended to decrease the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
The study, consisting of 24,474 adult participants, examined data from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. During the follow-up period of over six years, 3,520 deaths were recorded: 827 from cancer, 709 from cardiac causes, and 228 from cerebrovascular disease. The researchers found that dairy consumption was associated with a two percent lower risk of death from any cause, while the daily consumption of mostly cheese was associated with an eight percent lower total mortality risk. An assistant professor of nutrition, Beth Kitchin wrote to NBC, “Dairy foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, and kefir are great sources of high-quality protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Milk and yogurt are good sources of potassium – which is tough to get enough of in our diets. Diets high in potassium help lower blood pressure. Unless you’re allergic to milk, there really aren’t downsides – unless you eat so much of them that you gain weight.” It’s important to note that even though dairy products are being reconsidered as heart-health add-ons, they are not life-saving and it’s key to have a balanced diet. Dr. Holly Lofton, director of the weight management program at NYU Langone Health states, “Cheese is often eaten in mindless settings like dinner. This can lead to weight gain, which increases cardiovascular risk.” So if you do add dairy back into the rotation, be mindful of portion sizes and pair your favorite cheese and yogurt with fresh produce, whole grains, and other nutritious foods.
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