In our childhood, we were taught that dairy is essential to a healthy diet. Milk was revered as a calcium, vitamin D, and protein source.

Throughout history, dairy products have been lauded for their health benefits to bones, teeth, and muscles. But conversely, dairy has also received negative press because of its saturated fat content, which has been linked to heart disease and other metabolic complications. 

31% of all deaths globally are caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD), which remains the leading cause of death worldwide.

In recent years, the effect of saturated fat on health has been hotly debated. However, according to the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s latest evidence review on Saturated Fat and Health (August 1st, 2019), saturated fats should not exceed 10% of total calorie intake. 

Blood cholesterol levels are raised by saturated fat, mainly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Meanwhile, recent evidence from several extensive prospective cohort studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses that combined the results of thousands of subjects has shown that milk and dairy foods, which can be high in saturated fat, are neutral or protective against cardiometabolic diseases.

Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the associations of saturated fats from dairy and nondairy sources with measures of body fat, inflammatory biomarkers, lipid concentrations, and lipid particle sizes and concentrations.

The Framingham Offspring Study is a prospective cohort study. The study included 2391 participants (n = 2391) with dietary records and measurements of outcomes.

What Did The Study Reveal?

There was a significant difference in multivariable-adjusted body fat levels among females in the highest quintile (compared to the lowest quintile) of dairy-based saturated fat [BMI (in kg/m2): 26.22 versus 27.8, and percentage fat mass: 36.7% versus 38.0%, P = 0.09) and LDL particle sizes.

In females, nondairy saturated fat was inversely associated with the triglyceride (TG): HDL ratio (P = 0.03).

As a result, dairy-derived saturated fat intake was inversely related to C-reactive protein levels, fibrinogen levels, TGs levels, and TG: HDL ratios among males. Among males in the highest (compared with the lowest) quintile of saturated fat from dairy sources, HDL cholesterol levels were 2.84 mg/dL (P = 0.04) higher.

A more significant proportion of large HDL and LDL particles in males who consumed the most dairy-derived saturated fats (P = 0.01), a higher HDL particle concentration, and a lower VLDL particle concentration. Neither males nor females experienced statistically significant adverse effects from saturated fats from nondairy sources.

In males consuming more dairy-derived saturated fats, the atherogenic profile was lower than in males consuming significantly less saturated fat. These effects were weaker in females. Nondairy saturated fats did not affect these cardiometabolic outcomes.

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