Drinking a pint of milk a day or eating yoghurt helps ward off a condition linked to diabetes and heart disease, research showed today.
A study found that dairy products helped cut the prevalence of metabolic syndrome, which is thought to affect up to a quarter of the UK population.
The condition – sometimes called insulin resistance – relates to a group of features that are linked to the body’s metabolism.
Excess body fat around the abdomen, high cholesterol and high levels of glucose in the blood are some of its features.
Having the syndrome increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.
A total of 2,375 men without diabetes aged 45 to 59 were recruited for the research.
More than one in 10 (15 per cent) had metabolic syndrome at the start of the study.
The men’s health was tracked over a 20-year period as part of the Caerphilly Prospective Study.
They filled in food questionnaires and kept weekly food diaries, and the amount of dairy products they ate was recorded.
Those with the syndrome had almost double the risk of coronary artery heart disease and four times the risk of diabetes as those without. They were also almost 50 per cent more likely to die early.
Yogurt and cheese
The study revealed that men who regularly drank milk and ate dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, were far less likely to have the syndrome than those who said they drank and ate little or none.
The men were 62 per cent less likely to have the syndrome if they drank a pint or more of milk every day, and 56 per cent less likely to have it if they regularly ate other dairy foods.
The more dairy food a man consumed, the less likely he was to suffer from the syndrome.
The authors, led by Professor Peter Elwood at Cardiff University, said they believed the reduction could be attributed to dairy over other factors.
They concluded: ‘Milk consumption has fallen markedly in the UK during the past 25 years.
‘This paper adds to the evidence that milk and dairy products fit well into a healthy eating pattern and that their consumption should be promoted.’
Jemma Edwards, care adviser at Diabetes UK, also stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.
She said: ‘The results of this study are interesting.
‘Dairy products are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and we would recommend people aim to eat two to three servings of low-fat dairy a day.
‘One portion is equivalent to a third of a pint of milk, one small pot of yogurt or a matchbox-sized piece of cheese.
‘Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity are vital in reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.’
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