Milk does a body good: Study

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Milk, according to new research, indeed does a body good.

Consuming dairy products has been linked to lower mortality rates and lower rates of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published today in The Lancet.

Researchers followed 136,000 people aged 35 to 70 in 21 countries over an average of nine years to complete the Prospective Urban Renewal Study.

The subjects completed questionnaires on their dairy intake. Those who consumed an average of 3.2 daily servings had a mortality rate of 3.4 percent compared with 5.6 percent for those who didn't consume any dairy.

The group with higher dairy consumption rates also had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The associations held true regardless of whether the dairy consumed was low-fat or whole-fat. Most of the dairy considered in the study was consumed in the form of milk and yogurt -- not enough cheeses and butters were consumed to affect health outcomes.

"Our findings support that consumption of dairy products might be beneficial for mortality and cardiovascular disease," one of the study's lead authors, Mahshid Dehghan of McMaster University in Canada, said in a statement.

Among those who consumed exclusively whole-fat dairy, higher intake was associated with rates of mortality and cardiovascular disease about 1 percent lower than those who consumed less than half a serving every day.

PHOTO: People enjoy ice cream in this undated stock photo.STOCK/Getty Images
People enjoy ice cream in this undated stock photo.

Current dietary guidelines for Americans from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion include language promoting the consumption of lower-fat dairy products.

Two experts quoted in the same journal, however, said those guidelines needn't yet be changed.

"The results from the PURE study seem to suggest that dairy intake, especially whole-fat dairy, might be beneficial for preventing deaths and major cardiovascular diseases," said Dr. Jimmy Chun Yu Louie, from the University of Hong Kong, and Dr. Anna M. Rangan, from the University of Sydney. The PURE study's results suggest that "consumption of dairy products should not be discouraged and perhaps even be encouraged in low-income and middle-income countries."

That said, the doctors added, the study "is not the ultimate seal of approval for recommending whole-fat dairy over its low-fat or skimmed counterparts."

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