There has been ongoing debate for decades over whether or not drinking cow’s milk is beneficial for good health. Although milk is a well-known source of calcium and vitamin D to support bone health, researchers have recently found that milk drinkers also tend to have lower cholesterol levels and less of a risk for heart disease.
According to a recent Eat This, Not That! post, a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that calcium increases the enzymes in the body that break down fats, helping to lower cholesterol levels. Researchers assessed genetic biomarkers of up to 417,236 study participants – and those who were milk drinkers demonstrated a lower cardiovascular risk despite having a higher body mass index.
It is not clear why people who drink milk regularly have a higher amount of body fat, but some researchers believe that low-fat dairy may be associated with obesity and abdominal fat. Recent studies suggest that whole-fat dairy may help to lower the risk for obesity.
But if you are not a milk drinker, there are plenty of other dietary sources of calcium that can help promote strong bones and heart health including tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. It’s also important to include some healthy fats like olive or avocado oil or salmon in a nutritious diet to help keep good (HDL) cholesterol levels high and bad (LDL) levels low.
Further study is needed to provide evidence that increasing dairy consumption is advisable to help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. In the meanwhile, a healthy Mediterranean-style diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts and olive oil will help support bone and heart health. And staying active with regular moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week will not only improve heart health but can also help adults maintain physical function.