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Heart Disease Health Center

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Study: Low-Fat Milk Doesn't Hurt Heart

Low-Fat or Nonfat Milk Doesn't Worsen Risk of Developing Heart Disease or Stroke

Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Milk

The new study included 665 men between the ages of 45 and 59 recruited for an ongoing nutrition and health study between 1979 and 1983. Just after recruitment the men were asked to weigh and record everything they ate or drank for one week. They were then followed for evidence of heart disease for the next 20 years, during which time 54 of the men had strokes, 139 developed heart disease, and 225 died.

Most of the men drank whole milk when they entered the study, but almost all had switched to skim or low fat two decades later.

Men who drank the most milk (a pint or more) and the least milk (less than half a pint) had similar blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Men who drank the most milk also consumed the most calories, while men who drank the least milk drank the most alcohol.

Death rates from all causes were similar in both groups. Men who drank the most milk had a lower risk of stroke caused by blood clots than those who drank the least. They also tended to have a slightly lower risk of heart attack than those who drank less.

The study is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

3 Servings a Day

Government nutrition guidelines were recently changed to recommend that adults eat three servings of nonfat or low-fat dairy products a day instead of two. And the American Heart Association and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommend nonfat or low-fat dairy products as part of a healthy diet.

National Dairy Council spokeswoman Teresa Wagner says recent studies suggest that milk consumption improves blood pressure and insulin resistance -- a marker of heart disease and a risk for developing diabetes. Just two weeks ago nutrition researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that drinking milk helps protect against type 2 diabetes.

"I think people now realize that low-fat and fat-free dairy products can provide a lot of health benefits," she tells WebMD. "They recognize the unique nutrient package of dairy foods, which includes not only calcium but eight other essential vitamins and minerals that may play a role in other aspects of health besides just bones."

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