Dairy products and meat are beneficial for heart health and longevity. This is the conclusion of a new study review of more than 218,000 people.
The research suggests that meat and dairy products have health benefits when eaten alongside fruit, vegetables and fish and that unprocessed animal products significantly lower a person’s risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.
Researchers claim previous studies that linked fat-rich diets to heart disease were flawed, with more recent findings suggesting saturated fats may not be as harmful as once thought.
The results of the study were recently published in The Lancet. The author of the study, Professor Salim Yusuf, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, said: ‘Thinking on what constitutes a high quality diet for a global population needs to be reconsidered.”
How the study was conducted
The researchers analysed five studies with a total of more than 218,000 participants from over 50 countries across five continents.
The scientists divided the participants into five groups according to the quality of their diets. This was based on the amount of fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, meat and dairy they ate.
Over a period of up to 25 years, the participants were followed to determine if they suffered a heart attack or stroke, as well as if they died.
Unprocessed meat is beneficial to your health
The results of the study suggest that people who included both unprocessed animal and plant products in their diet are less at risk of a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.
Co-author of the study Dr Andrew Mente said: “People who consumed a diet emphasising fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, dairy products and meat had the lowest risks of cardiovascular disease and early death. Regarding meat, we found that unprocessed meat is associated with a benefit.”
The findings of one of the studies, which was made up of 135,335 people, found that those who rely on carbohydrates for 60 percent of their energy, with little saturated fat, are more likely to die early.
Another study suggested a person’s carbohydrate intake should make up around half of their daily calorie consumption. This allows other nutrients, such as protein and fat, to also be included in their diets.
Faulty research blaming fat for heart disease was enormously influential
From the 1950s scientists questioned why people living in the US, Northern Europe and the UK were more prone to heart disease than those in the Mediterranean and Japan.
Studies blamed fats, particularly saturated fats for heart disease. According to the current study review’s researchers, this was “enormously influential while undergoing limited scrutiny as to the rigor of their methods“.
This resulted in people being advised to limit their meat and dairy intake, and opt for lean, low-fat options.
Saturated dairy fats do not increase the risk of heart disease
Saturated fats found in yoghurt, cheese, butter and milk do not increase the risk of heart disease, research suggested in July 2018.
Eating full-fat dairy actually reduces a person’s risk of dying from stroke by 42 percent, a study found.
Lead author of the study, Dr Marcia Otto, from the University of Texas, Houston, said: “Our findings not only support, but also significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults. In addition to not contributing to death, the results suggest that one fatty acid present in dairy may lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke.”
Dietary guidelines often suggest low or no-fat dairy, however, the researchers warn such options are often high in sugar, which can drive heart disease.
Dr Otto said: “Consistent with previous findings, our results highlight the need to revisit current dietary guidance on whole-fat dairy foods, which are rich sources of nutrients such as calcium and potassium. These are essential for health not only during childhood but throughout life, particularly also in later years when undernourishment and conditions like osteoporosis are more common.”
Dr Otto added that consumers have been exposed to conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats.
“It’s therefore important to have robust studies, so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay.”