A new study suggests that consumption of full fat dairy products might lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke instead of increasing it.

Published by the UTHealth School of Public Health, the study discovered one particular fatty acid in dairy products – such as butter, milk and yoghurt – that could potentially lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular ailments, reported the US edition of Newsweek on 16 July.

Marcia Otto, assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences and the lead author of the study, said it strengthened a “growing body of evidence” suggesting that dairy fat did not increase overall mortality in adults.

“Consumers have been exposed to so much different and conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats. It’s therefore important to have robust studies so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay,” said Otto.

The research team began evaluating 3,000 adults aged 65 or older in 1992 by measuring the levels of three dairy fatty acids – phospholipid pentadecanoic, heptadecanoic and trans-palmitoleic acids – in their blood, which were then re-measured six and 13 years later.

The researchers discovered that none of the fatty acids were linked to a higher risk of dying, but heptadecanoic acid, in particular, was connected to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, those with higher levels of fatty acids, which the team believed could be a result of their dairy consumption, had a 42% lower risk of dying from stroke.

Otto argued that current dietary guidelines in the USA, which recommended against the consumption of full fat dairy products, should be revised due to many beneficial nutrients found in butter, milk and cheese, such as calcium and potassium.

She said that the recommended low fat dairy products could be deceiving in their health claims as they could contain high levels of added sugars.

The study came at a time when US milk sales were expected to fall 11% between 2015 and 2020, while milk alternatives, such as soya and almond products, had seen their sales skyrocket by 61% in the past five years, based on data from Mintel.

Heart disease was the leading cause of death in the USA, claiming 610,000 lives annually, while stroke was number five on the biggest killers list with 795,000 people experiencing a stroke annually in the USA, wrote Newsweek.