Characterized by elevated blood pressure, abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, low high density lipoprotein cholesterol, and elevated blood glucose, metabolic syndrome (MetS) has been associated with an increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases. Researchers continue to evaluate the role of nutritional behaviors in the development of these conditions, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In particular, diary intake has been studied for its impact on lipid levels, blood pressure, and other risk factors as emerging evidence suggests whole fat and fermented dairy products may influence diverse metabolic pathways.

Although prior research implicates that dairy consumption is associated with a decreased risk of MetS, diabetes, and hypertension, the majority of these studies have been conducted in North American and European populations, limiting the generalizability of their findings. A new international study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care reports that a diary-rich diet has the potential to reduce the risk of certain cardiometabolic conditions – including diabetes and high blood pressure – along with several cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Association of Dairy Consumption with Cardiometabolic Conditions

The most recent trial evaluated 147,812 participants aged between 35 and 70 from 21 countries, to verify the generalizability of prior findings and ascertain whether the associations between diary consumption and reduced cardiometabolic disease risk can be found on an international scale. As part of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, investigators assessed the association between dairy intake and MetS prevalence as well as its components over a median follow-up period of 9.1 years. This included the incidence of hypertension and diabetes in the cohort.

Dietary dairy intake was assessed using Food Frequency Questionnaires and evaluated whether participants consumed milk, yogurt, yogurt drinks, cheese, and dishes prepared with dairy products classified as either full or low fat. The average daily total dairy intake was 179 grams, this included 124.5 grams of full fat and 65 grams of low fat products.

Additionally, the research team collected data on individual personal medical history, prescription medicine use, educational level, smoking status, weight and height measurements, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose.

Reduced Incidence of Metabolic Syndrome Components

After an average of 9 years of follow-up, 13,640 participants developed hypertension while 5,351 developed diabetes. Over 46,660 subjects had metabolic syndrome, defined as at least 3 of the 5 components. The team’s findings reveal that total dairy and full fat – but not low fat – dairy intakes were associated with a decreased prevalence of most components of metabolic syndrome, especially in countries with typically lower daily dairy consumption.

Compared with participants who did not consume dairy, those who had an intake of at least 2 servings of dairy a day experienced a 24% reduction in metabolic syndrome risk. The risk reduction grew to 28% in participants who consumed full fat dairy products. Similarly, at least 2 servings a day of total dairy were linked to a 12% reduction in the risk of both hypertension and diabetes, while 3 servings contributed to a 13-14% lower risk.

The latest findings indicate the potential benefits of increasing whole fat dairy intake for the reduction of MetS risk and its component factors, as well as for lowering the incidence of hypertension and diabetes. While the recent study proves that prior findings linking dairy consumption to cardiometabolic health implications are generalizable across an international population, further large-scale randomized trials need to be conducted to ascertain the connection between whole fat dairy products and decreased risk of MetS, hypertension, and diabetes.