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Oct 12, 2016

Dairy fat increases cardiovascular disease risk

Dairy fats are predominantly saturated fat, and dairy products are major food sources of saturated fat and contribute to approximately one-fifth of total saturated fat intake in the US diet.  Saturated fat intake increases LDL-cholesterol and may induce chronic inflammation, and, thus, may increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Conversely, specific fatty acids in dairy have been associated with lower cardiometabolic risk. Prospective cohort studies have shown inconsistent results regarding the association between dairy products and CVD risk regardless of dairy fat contents. Few epidemiologic studies have examined the relation between dairy fat intake and CVD.

With this background in men, Harvard University researchers examined dairy fat in relation to cardiovascular disease (CVD) among 43,652 men in the Health Professionals Follow-

Up Study (1986–2010), 87,907 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (1980–2012), and 90,675 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991–2011). Dairy fat and other fat intakes were assessed every 4 years with the use of validated food-frequency questionnaires. 

During 5,158,337 person-years of follow-up, there were 14,815 incident CVD cases including 8,974 coronary heart disease cases (nonfatal myocardial infarction or fatal coronary disease) and 5,841 stroke cases. In multivariate analyses, compared with an equivalent amount of energy from carbohydrates (excluding fruit and vegetables), dairy fat intake was not significantly

related to risk of total CVD, coronary heart disease or stroke. 

In models in which the effects of exchanging different fat sources was estimated, the replacement of 5% of energy intake from dairy fat with equivalent energy intake from polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) or vegetable fat was associated with 24% and 10% lower risk of CVD, respectively, whereas the 5% energy intake substitution of other animal fat with dairy fat was associated with 6% increased CVD risk. 


Chen, M., Li, Y., Sun, Q., Pan, A., Manson, J.E., Rexrode, K.M., Willett, W.C., Rimm, E.B., and Hu, F.B. Dairy fat and risk of cardiovascular disease in 3 cohorts of US adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016, 104, 1209-1217.