A dash of milk could make all the difference to a healthy heart as new research from the University of South Australia finds that people who regularly consume milk have a lower risk of heart disease.
Conducted in partnership with the University of Reading, the world-first study used a genetic-approach to investigate causal relationships between milk consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Assessing genetic biomarkers among 400,000+ people, the study found that greater milk consumption was associated with lower blood cholesterol, lower blood lipid levels, and a lower risk of heart disease.
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. In Australia, cardiovascular disease affects more than four million people, and kills one Australian every 28 minutes.
Most cardiovascular disease risks are preventable through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
UniSA researcher and Director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hypponen says the finding supports the role of milk as a healthy part of a balanced diet.
"People have long had a love-hate relationship with milk, which is not surprising given the mixed messages about dairy," Prof Hypponen says.
"While some reports show that high dairy and milk consumption is linked with cardio-metabolic risk factors, evidence from randomised controlled trials have been inconsistent.
"In this study, we conducted robust genetic tests to assess whether milk was associated with an increase in heart disease, and while we confirm that milk can cause an increase in body fat, we also show that it leads to lower cholesterol concentration and lower cardiovascular disease risk.
"The risk reduction could be explained by milk calcium, which has shown to increase the enzymes that break down fats within the body and thereby lower cholesterol levels.
"What this shows is that milk can be a part of a healthy balanced diet; there is no need to limit milk consumption if you're looking to improve your heart health."
International Journal of Obesity