According to a new study from the International Journal of Obesity, regular milk consumption is not associated with increased cholesterol levels. This new research was conducted following several contradictory studies which had previously suggested a link between higher dairy intake and cardiometabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
The study looked at three large population studies and found that people who regularly consumed high amounts of milk had lower bad and good cholesterol levels. However, their BMI levels were higher than non-milk drinkers.
Researchers looked at a variation in the lactase gene associated with the digestion of milk sugars known as lactose. By taking this genetic approach to milk consumption, it was able to identify a genetic variation in some people who can digest lactose. These participants stood out to the researchers as those who consumed higher levels of milk.
Prof Vimal Karani, Professor of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics at the University of Reading said:
“We found that among participants with a genetic variation that we associated with higher milk intake, they had higher BMI, body fat, but importantly had lower levels of good and bad cholesterol. We also found that those with the genetic variation had a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease. All of this suggests that reducing the intake of milk might not be necessary for preventing cardiovascular diseases.”
Relationship with Genetic Variation
The UK biobank data did show a link between those who had the genetic variation and an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, it did not suggest any strong evidence for a relationship between higher milk consumption and increased likelihood of diabetes. There was also no connection found to any related traits such as glucose or inflammatory biomarkers.
Further analysis of larger studies also suggests that those who have a higher milk consumption rate have a 14% lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Researchers want to clarify that milk consumption is not a significant issue for cardiovascular disease, even though it may be responsible for a rise in BMI and body fat. Further studies are needed to understand the relationship between milk and cholesterol. The question remains if the fat content in dairy products is contributing to the lower cholesterol levels or if it is due to an unknown milk factor.