But before rushing out the door to get a milkshake or a triple-scoop ice cream cone, the researchers advise that skim milk or other low-fat dairy products are the best route to go.
"There is an association of high dairy consumption and the lower probability of metabolic syndrome," says Vanin Bongard, MD, PhD, of the University School of Medicine in Toulouse, France. "However, it is important to differentiate between low- and high-fat dairy products. Individuals should drink skim milk and eat low-fat yogurt."
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association.
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome an individual must meet at list three of five criteria: a large waistline, elevated fasting triglycerides, reduced HDL "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure, and an elevated fasting glucose (blood sugar).
The researchers studied 1,072 French men, ages 45 to 64 years, and asked them to keep a diary of all drinks and food eaten for a period of three days. Then the men were divided into five groups according to their reported dairy consumption.
Dairy vs. Metabolic Syndrome
What they found was that the group with the highest dairy consumption was 40% less likely to have metabolic syndrome, compared with the group of men with the lowest dairy consumption.
Also noted was that overweight men who had a high consumption of dairy products were 61% less likely to have metabolic syndrome.
The amount of dairy products consumed by the men ranged from 89 grams to 332 grams of dairy products daily -- the amount of a large glass of milk.
Prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the men ranged from about 33% in men with the lowest dairy consumption to about 22% in men with the highest dairy consumption.
Dairy and Lifestyle
The researchers warn that the study only produced an association between dairy products and metabolic syndrome and therefore the connection has yet to be proven.
"Further study is needed," says Bongard.
It also appeared that the men who drank more milk and ate more dairy products may have taken better care of themselves, the researchers say.
"They also tended to exercise more, drink less alcohol, and smoke less," says researcher Jean Dallongeville, MD, PhD, of the Institute Pasteur de Lille, France.
More study is required before exact recommendations can be given, he says.
The study is interesting, but it is "unclear" whether there is a cause- and-effect relationship, says Robert Eckel, MD, president of the American Heart Association.