If you love milk but worry about it being unhealthy, you probably reach for skim or two percent options. The lower levels of saturated fat helps us feel like we can have our milk and drink it, too — without any guilt. But fans of whole milk can rejoice: New research suggests drinking it regularly won’t raise cholesterol levels or lead to heart disease!
It turns out, scientists have been trying to understand how regular milk consumption affects heart disease risk for years now. Whole milk tends to be the main focus as it contains a higher level of saturated fat and cholesterol than low-fat or skim milk.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity tested this theory on 2 million participants. Researchers distributed questionnaires asking them about the type of milk they buy and how they much drink on a daily basis. They also gathered basic information about each participant’s age, weight, and height.
With this data, researchers looked at the lactase (LCT) gene, which surrounds the lactase enzyme in our bodies. This enzyme is responsible for digesting lactose — a sugar commonly found in milk. They looked at how the LCT genotype can influence milk consumption and the potential risk of heart-related events as a result.
The findings showed that participants who were carriers of a specific variant of the LCT gene known as the “T” allele were more likely to drink milk. Who knew loving milk came from your genes? This was also linked to a higher body mass index (BMI), but lower cholesterol levels. Carriers of the variant had a decreased risk of developing coronary artery disease, too.
As far as the type of milk participants drank, researchers didn’t find any strong evidence that the fat content in milk increased or decreased cholesterol levels. Other than a potentially higher BMI (which could also be due to several other factors, of course), they found no reason to limit the amount or type of milk you drink on a regular basis when it comes to protecting heart health.
“All of this suggests that reducing the intake of milk might not be necessary for preventing cardiovascular diseases,” Vimal Karani, professor of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics at the University of Reading, said in a statement.
Although there are plenty of options for yummy milk alternatives or reduced fat versions, this study is definitely reassuring if you enjoy drinking a glass of regular whole milk. Building up that calcium will do wonders for strengthening bones without worrying about any extra stress on our hearts!