Eating at least two daily servings of dairy may be linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as the cluster of factors that heighten cardiovascular disease risk (metabolic syndrome), according to a study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

The researchers drew on people taking part in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, in which participants were aged 35–70 and came from 21 countries. The researchers accessed dietary intake over the previous 12 months using food frequency questionnaires. Dairy products included milk, yogurt, yogurt drinks, cheese, and dishes prepared with dairy products, and were classified as full or low-fat (1%–2%). Butter and cream were assessed separately as these are not commonly eaten in some of the countries studied.

Information on personal medical history, use of prescription medicines, educational attainment, smoking, and measurements of weight, height, waist circumference, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose were also collected.

Data on all five components of the metabolic syndrome was available for nearly 113,000 people: blood pressure above 130/85 mm Hg; waist circumference above 80 cm; low levels of (beneficial) high-density cholesterol (less than 1–1.3 mmol/L); blood fats (triglycerides) of more than 1.7 mmol/dL; and fasting blood glucose of 5.5 mmol/L or more.

The average daily total dairy consumption was 179 g, with full fat accounting for around double the amount of low fat. Some 46, 667 people had metabolic syndrome—defined as having at least three of the five components.

The researchers found that total dairy and full-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, were associated with a lower prevalence of most components of metabolic syndrome, with the size of the association greatest in those countries with normally low dairy intakes. At least two servings a day of total dairy were associated with a 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, rising to 28% for full-fat dairy alone, compared with no daily dairy intake.

Additionally, at least two servings a day of total dairy was associated with an 11%–12% lower risk of blood pressure and diabetes, rising to a 13%–14% lower risk when three servings of dairy per day were consumed.

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