The study, published in Nutrition and Diabetes using dietary pattern analysis, examined the impact of dairy foods on markers of body fatness and metabolic health in 1,500 Irish people aged between 18 and 90 years of age.
Simply looking at individual foods does not reflect the real story, said Dr Emma Feeney, FHI (Food For Health Ireland) science programme manager, and lead author of the study.
“What will really impact on our metabolic health, is the overall pattern in which whole foods are consumed,” Feeney said.
The study also examined individual dairy food consumption, with one of the findings indicating that cheese consumption was not associated with body fatness or with LDL cholesterol.
This echoes recent research from other countries that demonstrates that the saturated fat from cheese does not adversely impact blood lipid profiles due to the unique ‘matrix’ of nutrients it contains.
Feeney noted that randomized controlled trials are under way at University College Dublin to understand this cheese ‘matrix’ effect further.
Cheese consumption was also associated with higher C-peptide levels and better insulin sensitivity, which the authors said suggests cheese intake was associated with improved metabolic health in this cohort.
Although those consuming more cheese had a greater intake of dietary fat compared to the low cheese consumers, this did not impact blood lipid profiles, which included markers such as LDL cholesterol.
More research needed
The results suggest dairy foods may offer potential for weight management, particularly milk and yogurt. Dairy foods, principally milk, may also have a role in the control of blood pressure, and potentially in the management of blood glucose.
In addition, the study showed that while low-fat milk and yogurt consumption was associated with a more favorable measure of ‘healthy eating,’ these individuals had greater triglyceride and total cholesterol levels.
The authors suggested this less favorable blood lipid profile could be related to a low-fat high carbohydrate dietary pattern, but stress that more research is needed.
Food for Health Ireland’s (FHI) purpose is to identify novel ingredients coming from milk to develop functional food ingredients that offer health benefits to consumers. Its research focuses on infant nutrition, healthy cheese, appetite modulation, performance nutrition and healthy ageing as well as products that can be used to manage elevated glucose levels.
Patterns of dairy food intake, body composition and markers of metabolic health in Ireland: results from the National Adult Nutrition Survey
Source: Nutrition and Diabetes, February 2017
Authors: E L Feeney, A O'Sullivan, A P Nugent, B McNulty, J Walton, A Flynn and E R Gibney