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Blessed are the cheesemakers: dairy NOT linked to increased heart disease – University of Reading

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Blessed are the cheesemakers: dairy NOT linked to increased heart disease

Release Date 09 May 2017

Wheels of cheese

'Blessed are the cheesemakers', misheard a character in the film The Life of Brian. Now nutritional scientists have shown that Monty Python may have been spot on.

Scientists at the University of Reading have found that people who ate diets with more cheese were not associated with increased risk of heart disease.

A team from Reading’s Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition and the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) conducted the largest analysis of population cohort studies, representing almost a million participants and over 93,000 deaths, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

The meta-analysis of 29 prospective cohort studies found that overall, diets high in dairy products, did not lead to any increased occurrence of cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke) or death.

Jing Guo, a nutrition scientist in IFNH at the University of Reading said:

"This latest analysis provides further evidence that a diet that is high in dairy foods is not necessarily damaging to health.

“The number of participants in particular gives us a really clear global picture of the neutral association of dairy on heart disease risk, and some indications about the potentially beneficial effect of fermented dairy on heart health, although further studies are needed to confirm this."

Professor Julie Lovegrove, Head of the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, University of Reading said: "This supports previous findings that dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurts, can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. We will now be investigating the possible ways that dairy foods may impact on health."

Public Health England's current guidelines on dairy consumption recommend that dairy and alternatives form no more than 8% of a diet, and choose lower fat and lower sugar options where possible.

The research was conducted in collaboration with colleagues from the Universities of Wageningen and Copenhagen. It was funded by a grant from the Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia, and Jing Guo’s Ph.D. scholarship was supported by the Barham Benevolent Trust who provide bursaries to colleges and universities for research in dairy related subjects. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection, data analysis and results interpretation, writing of the report, or the decision to submit the article for publication. 

Full article:

Guo, J., Astrup, A., Lovegrove, J.A. Gijsbers, L., Givens, D.I. and Soedamah-Muthu, S. S. Eur J Epidemiol (2017).


Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health

This new Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health brings together Reading’s world-leading expertise in food, agriculture and the environment to understand how food production and processing can be improved to deliver better nutrition and diets. Drawing also on our economics and social science expertise, the Institute will inform policy debates and technology and to improve industrial processes and the development of new products for improved human health.

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